Friday, May 17, 2013

Who'd have thunk it?

It turns out that the oil companies have been engaged in widespread, LIBOR-style price-fixing:

The London offices of BP and Shell have been raided by European regulators investigating allegations they have "colluded" to rig oil prices for more than a decade.

The European commission said its officers carried out "unannounced inspections" at several oil companies in London, the Netherlands and Norway to investigate claims they may have "colluded in reporting distorted prices to a price reporting agency [PRA] to manipulate the published prices for a number of oil and biofuel products".

The commission said the alleged price collusion, which may have been going on since 2002, could have had a "huge impact" on the price of petrol at the pumps "potentially harming final consumers".

When LIBOR broke, there were fears that this sort of price-fixing was rife throughout the financial and commodities sector. It turns out that it is. Far from being "free", or markets are just gangs of organised criminals engaged in price-fixing and market-distortion for profit. And ordinary consumers like you and I are their victims. We pay more for food, we pay more for petrol, we pay more for electricity, we pay more for our homes because of their criminal profiteering. The question now is whether governments will actually do anything effective about this, or whether they'll blame a few bad apples, deliver a few token slaps on the wrist with a wet bus-ticket, and let it continue. Sadly, given the way that money dictates politics at the moment, I expect the latter.