Video: Gas price probe

updated 8/29/2006 6:22:33 PM ET 2006-08-29T22:22:33

Federal investigators are reportedly looking into whether BP PLC manipulated crude-oil and gasoline markets, the latest in a string of inquiries into the British oil company.

A company spokesman confirmed BP is cooperating with U.S. authorities, but gave no details.

The U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission has subpoenaed BP and energy traders in its oil investigation, which is focused on possible manipulation of over-the-counter markets in 2003 and 2004, The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday, citing unnamed lawyers and traders close to the cases.

The over-the-counter market includes trades conducted on the phone or electronically in products not listed on exchanges.

The separate gasoline probe, which has been ongoing for more than a year and includes a criminal inquiry by the Justice Department, is examining a single day’s trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange in 2002, the report said.

“We routinely assist regulators and other authorities in their requests to understand the facts related to our business,” said BP spokesman Robert Wine in London. “However, we don’t comment on the specifics of these requests or the agencies that make them.”

CFTC spokesman Alan Sobba in Washington said his agency would not “confirm or deny the existence of an investigation or anything about it.”

Justice Department spokesman Bryan Sierra declined to comment on whether there is a criminal investigation of BP over trading in unleaded gasoline on the New York Mercantile Exchange in 2002.

In June, federal investigators said BP energy traders cornered the U.S. propane market in the winter of 2004 and illegally manipulated prices, driving up heating and cooking costs for rural consumers.

Details of the alleged scheme, compiled with help from internal company documents and recorded conversations, were outlined in a civil lawsuit the CFTC filed against BP Products North America Inc., a Warrenville, Ill.-based unit of London-based BP PLC.

One former BP trader who in June pleaded guilty to partaking in a conspiracy “to manipulate and corner the propane market” — Dennis N. Abbott of Houston — agreed to cooperate with federal law enforcers in an ongoing criminal investigation being conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Justice Department said at the time.

BP has denied any wrongdoing in the propane market and said it intends to fight the charges in court.

On Sept. 7, the House Energy and Commerce Committee will look at BP’s corrosion control practices for its oil-transit lines at Alaska’s Prudhoe Bay, such as those involved in two spills this year before the partial shutdown earlier this month of the sprawling oil field near the edge of the Arctic Ocean.

© 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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