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Texas Energy Company Settles Trading Charges

By Justin Blum
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, July 29, 2004; Page E04

A Texas energy company has agreed to pay a $30 million fine to settle Commodity Futures Trading Commission charges that it reported false information and attempted to manipulate natural gas markets.

The company, Coral Energy Resources LP of Houston, an affiliate of Royal Dutch/Shell Group, agreed to pay the penalty without admitting or denying the allegations.

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The commission said in a statement yesterday that from at least January 2000 through September 2002, Coral reported false natural gas trading information -- including data about price and volume -- to industry reporting firms, including Natural Gas Intelligence and Inside FERC.

Those firms compile price indexes using information from actual trades. The indexes are used to price and settle commodity transactions. Company traders reported transactions that had never been executed, according to the commission. There is no evidence the information resulted in prices being manipulated, according to the commission.

In a statement, the company said that its traders reported transactions "they had done, seen and heard" and that they thought "reporting this sense of the market was in accordance with standard industry practice." Some of the traders involved in the matter no longer work for Coral, the statement said, and the company said it would discipline others if it is determined that they behaved inappropriately.

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