The Great Debate UK

Don’t just blame oil traders for the manipulation of oil prices

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–Kathleen Brooks is research director at forex.com. The opinions expressed are her own.–

The oil market is about to face one of the largest probes in years, following the EU announcing that it is investigating some major players like Shell and BP for price fixing. The probe concerns the way that large oil companies submit prices to Platts, the independent oil pricing service, which publishes prices for oil benchmarks like Brent.

The concern is that oil traders have been reporting prices that are higher than what they are actually selling oil for, in order to push up the price and cream the profits. This might all sound similar to those who followed the Libor fixing scandal that saw the end of Bob Diamond’s career at Barclays and global condemnation of bankers who set benchmark interest rates at levels that suited them, rather than the consumer.

So could this be a case of greedy traders pushing up prices that we, the consumer, have to pay at the pump? Could it be the actions of a few crude desks around the globe that may have pushed up UK inflation, which then limited the amount of stimulus the Bank of England has been willing to feed into the UK economy?

from The Great Debate:

Suing corporations should be a last resort

On Feb. 28, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments in Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum. The case is about Shell’s alleged complicity in torture and extrajudicial killings committed by the Nigerian military in the mid-1990s, and is expected to determine whether corporations can be sued in the U.S. for their involvement in human rights abuses abroad.

Corporate lawyers and plaintiffs’ attorneys alike are eagerly awaiting the outcome. If the Supreme Court upholds corporate liability, as federal courts have in the past and the Obama administration is encouraging the High Court to do, other lawsuits will surely follow -- against Apple for labor abuses in its Chinese manufacturing base, for example.

Wiwa v Shell: The day of reckoning

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Ben Amunwa-Ben Amunwa is a campaigner with oil industry watchdog Platform, where he runs Remember Saro-Wiwa, a project that uses art and activism to raise awareness about the impact of the oil in the Niger Delta. The opinions expressed are his own.-

When the news broke of a settlement in the Wiwa v Shell case, a cacophony of responses soon flooded my inbox. Hailed as a victory for human rights by some, others felt disappointed that Shell could throw money in the face of justice. In such a high profile and emotive legal battle, holding oil giant Shell responsible for human rights abuses in Nigeria, including the execution of charismatic activist Ken Saro-Wiwa, hopes were inevitably high.

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