Friday, July 25, 2008
The government charged an oil trading firm Thursday with manipulating oil prices in the first complaint to be announced since the regulators began a new investigation into wrongdoings in the energy markets.
The Commodity Futures Trading Commission accused Optiver Holding, two of its subsidiaries and three employees with manipulation and attempted manipulation of crude oil, heating oil and gasoline futures on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
“Optiver traders amassed large trading positions, then conducted trades in such a way to bully and hammer the markets,” CFTC Acting Chairman Walt Lukken said at a press conference. “These charges go to the heart of the CFTC’s core mission of detecting and rooting out illegal manipulation of the markets.”
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In May, under the backdrop of record oil prices and calls from legislators to crack down on speculative oil trading and market manipulation, the CFTC announced a wide-ranging probe into oil price manipulation. The agency says it has dozens of investigations ongoing.
The complaint filed Thursday names Bastiaan van Kempen, chief executive; Christopher Dowson, a head trader; and Randal Meijer, head of trading at an Optiver subsidiary.
The CFTC said the firm attempted to “bang the close” by amassing large positions just before markets closed – forcing prices up – then selling them quickly to drive prices down and pocketing the difference.