AG’s task force focuses on energy market fraud

Source: Seattle PI

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder is forming a task force to focus on fraud in energy markets, monitoring oil and gas markets for violations that would harm the consumer.

“If illegal conduct is responsible for increasing gas prices, state and federal authorities should take swift action,” said Holder.

Sens. Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray, D-Wash., earlier this week asked the Commodities Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) to quickly institute safeguards against speculation provided for in 2010 Wall Street reform legislation.

Cantwell gave thumbs-up to Holder’s announcement.

“This task force brings together all the relevant agencies — including the CFTC — to fight for consumers,” she said.  “It will also bring the strong investigative and prosecutorial powers of the Department of Justice.”

Holder is following the path of a recommendation that Cantwell and Rep. Jay Inslee, D-Wash., made to President Bush in the spring of 2008 as gas prices soared toward $4 a gallon.

Cantwell and Inslee called for a Department of Justice Oil and Gas Market Fraud Task Force to look at manipulation in oil and gas markets.  Bush ignored the lawmakers’ request.

The panel announced by Holder, the Oil and Gas Price Fraud Working Group, will explore whether there is evidence of manipulation of oil and gas prices, collusion, fraud or misrepresentations at the retail or wholesale levels.

The working group will also look at commodities markets and examine investor practices, supply and demand factors, and what role is being played by speculators and index traders in oil futures markets.

“Rapidly rising gasoline prices are pinching the pockets of consumers across the country,” added Holder. “We will be vigilant in monitoring the oil and gas markets for any wrongdoing so that consumers can be confident they are not paying higher prices as a result of illegal activity.”

mararketing Financial Frauidsetting on Thursday