ConAgra fined for inflating crude oil prices

Marion Dakers
REGULATORS in America have fined a former division of food group ConAgra $12m (£7.7m) for artificially inflating the price of crude oil futures contracts above $100 a barrel, helping spark a rally that saw prices surge to a record $147.

An oil trader working for ConAgra Trading Group (CTG) made a “vanity trade” in New York to push prices above $100 in January 2008.

The firm instructed the broker to buy all of the contracts then being offered at $99.90 to “keep the $100 print up”, in the words of one CTG trader.

The trader said he was going to be a “madman” if crude oil prices got close to triple figures, and later bragged in an email: “Some people collect art prints, we collect price prints,” according to the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, which levied the fine.

CTG was sold to the Ospraie Special Opportunities fund in June 2008 and renamed Gavilon, which will pay the bulk of the charge.

Gavilon said yesterday: “We are pleased that this matter has been resolved and believe that this agreement is in the best interests of our customers and suppliers.”