BP Gas Market Fixing Earns Huge Fine, Company Blames Trainee

BP was fixing gas market prices, US regulators say. They may be facing fines of nearly $29 million. BP has been given 30 days to respond to these claims. The oil giant has already said publicly that the charges are not true. The company says that a BP trainee misspoke, mistakenly saying the company was purposely manipulating gas prices.

An investigation by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) began in 2011 about BP’s role in possible price fixing, reports The Telegraph. It began after a recorded phone call in which a BP trainee, Clayton Luskie, asked his manager in Texas about BP’s pricing system.

Luskie, a trainee, had been taking a BP company course. During the class, Luskie boasted to a senior BP official about how his team in Texas worked. The way Luskie described it sounded like BP was fixing the gas market, the official told him. He told the trainee to call his manager to be set straight.

Seeking clarification, Luskie called his manager, Gradyn Comfort, in Texas. This conversation was recorded. Luskie asked Comfort to help him with his misunderstanding of the BP operations in Texas. FERC says that during the call, Comfort kept interrupting Luskie, finally convincing him to talk over an unrecorded mobile line.

BBC News says that Luskie also reported what he thought was a misunderstanding to independent monitors put in place after BP was fined for manipulating propane prices in 2004. This finding earned them a fine of over $300 million from the FERC.

BP says that they have investigated the issue and found no acts of wrong-doing. They say the FERC’s claims are unfounded. BP officials say that the recorded phone call was also taken out of context. They state that Luskie had contacted Comfort to correct a misunderstanding. Luskie, they say, had misspoken about BP Texas and had said so in the call.

The oil giant says they will fight the FERC’s charges that BP was fixing gas market prices to boost profits of their Texas division.

[Image via Jeff Whyte / Shutterstock.com]

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