CFTC Investigating Oil Trading; Market Manipulation Suspected

On May 29, the CFTC announced an investigation of oil trading, looking for direct evidence that traders deliberately sought to skew the markets.

From Bloomberg:


"The key to this is: what is the intent of the trading?" said Geoffrey Aronow, a former head of enforcement for the CFTC. "Is the sole intent to try to move the price of the commodity -- in this case, crude oil? Or does the trading have a reasonable commercial justification?"

Record-high oil costs have prompted lawmakers to press for scrutiny of whether speculative trading is artificially pushing up prices artificially.


It's a very Enronesque scenario.

Remember Enron, and the California Energy Crisis?


In October 2000, Daniel Scotto, the top ranked utility analyst on Wall Street, suspended his ratings on all energy companies conducting business in California due to the unlikely probability that the companies would receive full and adequate compensation for the deferred energy accounts used as the cornerstone for the California Deregulation Plan enacted in the late 1990s. Five months later, Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) was forced into bankruptcy. Congressman Phil Gramm, the second largest recipient of campaign contributions from Enron, succeeded in legislating California's energy commodity trading deregulation. Despite warnings from prominent consumer groups which stated that this law would give energy traders too much influence over energy commodity prices, the legislation was passed in December 2000.

As Public Citizen reported, "Because of Enron’s new, unregulated power auction, the company’s 'Wholesale Services' revenues quadrupled—from $12 billion in the first quarter of 2000 to $48.4 billion in the first quarter of 2001."


Oh, and you might recognize the name Phil Gramm. :


While advising the McCain campaign, Gramm was being paid by a UBS to lobby Congress about the U.S. mortgage crisis. During this time, "the mortgage industry pressed Congress to roll back strong state rules that sought to stem the rise of predatory tactics used by lenders and brokers to place homeowners in high-cost mortgages." [3] According to, Gramm had input on McCain's March 26, 2008 policy speech on the mortgage crisis [4]. He was deregistered as a lobbyist for UBS on April 18th, 2008. [5]


Expect to hear a lot more about out-of-control commodity trading, oil & gas & energy market manipulation, Enron, Phil Gramm, John McCain and the embedded culture of Republican corruption.

I do.

Corruption, manipulation, poor management and worse policy -- it's endemic to the "conservative Republican" brand that grew up around Reagan, burgeoned under Bush I, blossomed through Newt's roadmap to manipulation and allowed to run rampant under Bush II's "neoconservative" brand, all protected and shielded from scrutiny by the GOP.

It's true what they say, you know -- it's like riding a bike; you never forget how, and these clowns have made an industy (or seven) out of it.

In the meantime, I'm going to give my bicycle a good once-over: inflate the tires, oil the chain and gears, and take it 'round the block a couple of times. The exercise will do me good, both in body and soul.

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