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Royal Dutch Shell false reporting, fictitious sales, fictitious trades and manipulation of natural gas prices

According to a Reuters article: “In 2004, Shell’s U.S. gas and power trading arm Coral Energy paid $30 million to settle charges it reported fake natural gas trades. Coral did not admit or deny wrongdoing.” On 30 July 2004, The New York Times published a related article under the headline: “Shell to Pay $150 Million In Settlement On Reserves”. The last paragraph turned to a different subject, stating “Separately, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission said on Thursday that Shell’s energy trading unit, Coral Energy Resources, had agreed to pay $30 million to settle accusations that it submitted false price data to publishers. The case is part of the commission’s industry-wide investigation into suspected manipulation of the energy markets.” The previous day, 29 July 2004, the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission released a press statement headlined: “CORAL ENERGY PAYS $30 MILLION TO SETTLE U.S. COMMODITY FUTURES TRADING COMMISSION CHARGES OF ATTEMPTED MANIPULATION AND FALSE REPORTING”. The opening paragraph said: “The U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) announced today the issuance of an administrative order (order) initiating and simultaneously settling charges of false reporting and attempted manipulation of natural gas transactions by Coral Energy Resources, L.P. (Coral).” The findings in the order included “from at least January 2000 through September 2002, Coral reported false, misleading or knowingly inaccurate natural gas trading information, including price and volume information, to certain price reporting firms such as Inside FERC’s Gas Market Report, and Natural Gas Intelligence” and that “Coral attempted to manipulate natural gas prices by delivering trade information to the price reporting firms with the intent to affect the market price of natural gas. The order finds that Coral reported information about trades that never occurred, altered price and volume information for certain trades, and failed to report some actual trades, all with the intent to affect the market price of natural gas.”

In January 2006, Royal Dutch Shell Plc agreed to a $300,000 settlement in respect of allegations that “two of its subsidiaries engaged in “fictitious” crude oil futures trades on the New York Mercantile Exchange.” Shell Trading U.S., located in Houston and London-based Shell International Trading and Shipping, agreed to pay $200,000 to settle a Commodity Futures Trading Commission case. Nigel Catterall, then head of the futures desk for Shell Trading U.S. agreed to pay $100,000. Bloomberg reported that Catterall and Shell engaged in prearranged trades for oil futures at least five times between November 2003 and March 2004. The CFTC acknowledged that Shell had cooperated in the investigation. According to the Bloomberg story (one of many news reports on the case), a commission spokesman, Dennis Holden, would not comment on how the trading violations came to light.

In November 2007, Bloomberg news reported “Five current and former traders from Coral Energy Resources, a unit of Royal Dutch Shell Plc, agreed to pay $1 million to settle U.S. allegations that they reported false information on natural-gas trades to manipulate prices According to the Bloomberg article, Shell confirmed that three of the people named in the settlement were employed by the company. Bloomberg quoted a Shell spokeswoman Rebecca Elliott as stating in an e-mail “In settling this civil case, the individuals neither admitted nor denied the allegations of the complaint”, and “Since this matter was between the CFTC and the individuals, it is not appropriate for us to comment further on the matter.”

On 15 January 2008, the CFTC issued an enforcement press release under the headline “CFTC Obtains Verdict Against Former Coral Energy Trader Anthony Dizona for Attempted Manipulation”. The sub-headline stated “Jury Finds Defendant Violated the Commodity Exchange Act by Attempting to Manipulate the Natural Gas Market Eight Times”.  In a summary entitled “ENERGY MARKETS ENFORCEMENT RESULTS” issued on 17 March 2008, the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission revealed a fine of $300,000 imposed on Shell Trading US Company and Shell International Trading and Shipping Company in respect of “fictitious sales & noncompetitive trades and prearranged trading”. At the time of the offenses “Dizona was an employee of Shell Trading Gas and Power Company which provided services for Shell subsidiary Coral Energy Resources, L.P.”

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