(Reuters) – The US Department of Justice is investigating suspected manipulation of energy price benchmarks published by S&P Global Platts, which expands the agency's efforts against misconduct in the global commodity market, according to four people familiar with the matter.
London-based Platts is a data and news provider focusing on energy, metal and agricultural products. The company collects data from traders on its business prices to determine a daily market price for a number of physical goods.
U.S. Prosecutors are investigating suspicious manipulative behaviors from individual traders as they submit these business prices to Plat's price estimates for oil and other energy benchmarks, the four said without specifying which ones.
People refused to be named because the probes are not public.
In the past year, U.S. authorities have brought two cases of alleged manipulation of Plat's oil metrics by traders at two different companies, but prosecutors are now investigating similar behaviors in the market, sources said.
The previously unreported, cross-industry probe opens a new front in the Justice Department's attacks on fraud, bribery and manipulation of the commodity market, increasing the efforts of traders and companies globally who use Platts' benchmarks daily to price billions of dollars in contracts.
Sources said prosecutors are focused on trader behavior and gave no indication of suspected crime by Platts.
In response to a request for comment from Reuters, Platts said it was conducting reviews to ensure the integrity of its price assessments. Platts publishes data and correspondence used to determine a price estimate and provides this information to regulators when requested, says Dave Ernsberger, global head of pricing and market insight for S&P Global Platts.
"We have been talking to US and global authorities everywhere in a variety of markets for many years," Ernsberger said.
He declined to comment on any probes.
A spokesman for the Ministry of Justice declined to comment.