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Shell says oil price fixing probe by EU could take years

THE EUROPEAN Commission’s probe into allegations of oil price fixing could take years, according to Shell: The lawyer warned that the EC is issuing increasingly heavy penalties. For cartel cases, the limit for a fine is 10 per cent of the group’s turnover.

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by Suzie Neuwirth: June 7, 2013, 4:21am

THE EUROPEAN Commission’s probe into allegations of oil price fixing could take years, according to Shell, one of the companies under review.

“It is important to bear in mind that this is an ongoing investigation into the facts and potential evidence, and it could be a number of years before it concludes,” a Shell spokesperson told City A.M. via email.

Oil giant Shell, along with BP, Statoil, ENI and price reporting agency Platts, all confirmed last month that they are under investigation by the EC.

Since then, commodities trading houses including Glencore, Gunvor, Vitor and Mercuria have been asked to submit information, although they are not under review.

An antitrust lawyer who chose to remain anonymous due to their relationship with one of the companies under review told City A.M. that the EC investigation would most likely take years to complete, particularly due to the number of companies involved in the case. However, the lawyer added that criticism of the regulator for taking too long in the past could lead the EC to speed up proceedings.

The lawyer warned that the EC is issuing increasingly heavy penalties. “For cartel cases, the limit for a fine is 10 per cent of the group’s turnover. This has not happened yet but penalties are getting bigger and bigger.”

The EC announced last month that it had carried out unannounced raids on the premises of several companies on the suspicion that they were manipulating oil prices.

The investigation has already drawn comparisons with the Libor scandal, which has seen several banks receive fines for manipulating interbank lending rates.

The European Commission, BP and Platts declined to comment.

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