Norway’s Statoil ASA (NYSE: STO) will pay a $4 million penalty over allegations that it manipulated the Argue Far East Index (FEI), a propane benchmark, to avoid financial losses, the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) said Nov. 14.
The commission also requires Statoil to cease further violations of the Commodity Exchange Act.
“Manipulation in our markets impedes free and fair competition and dampens economic growth,” said James McDonald, the CFTC’s director of enforcement. “As this case shows, we will work tirelessly to root out manipulation in our markets wherever it occurs, to ensure participants in our markets have confidence they are competing on a level playing field.”
The CFTC said that Statoil sought to prop up the FEI market by purchasing propane cargoes during the benchmark’s price-setting window.
The Order requires Statoil to pay a $4 million civil monetary penalty and orders Statoil to cease and desist from violating Section 9(a)(2) of the Commodity Exchange Act (CEA).
By purchasing cargoes in the Argus window, Statoil hoped to signal that demand was high and put “upwards pressure” on the FEI propane price.
Statoil’s intent to manipulate the Argus FEI was described repeatedly in contemporaneous communications, CFTC said. In one communication, a Statoil trader wrote: “If we are buying 17 cargoes there are only a few days when we will not be able to have a good impact on the Argus quote. . . . We are actually likely to move it quite a bit up as we keep buying. . .”