European authorities raided the offices of BP, Shell, Statoil, and other companies involved in the oil business yesterday, as part of an investigation into what they suspect is a more than decade-old conspiracy to rig oil prices. The European Commission said it had launched "unannounced inspections" of oil company offices in Britain, the Netherlands, and Norway, the Guardian reports. The companies have been accused of colluding to report artificially high prices to a benchmarking agency, much the way banks conspired to fix Libor rates.
"Even small distortions of assessed prices may have a huge impact on the prices of crude oil," which could in turn hurt consumers at the pump, the EC said in a statement, according to the Telegraph. While it didn't name its targets, BP, Shell, Norway's largely government-owned Statoil, and the price reporting firm Platts all say they're cooperating with investigators, with Statoil confirming a raid aided by Norwegian antitrust authorities. Though there's no timetable for the investigation, the AP believes political pressure is likely to mount for more regulation of the industry.