NEW YORK, April 29 Two new defendants, Mercuria
Energy Trading SA and Hess Energy Trading Co, have been added to
a lawsuit accusing BP Plc, Royal Dutch Shell Plc
and several other companies of conspiring to manipulate Brent
crude oil prices.
In an amended complaint filed late Monday night in the U.S.
District Court in Manhattan, where 14 lawsuits have been
combined, the defendants were accused of having monopolized and
conspired since 2002 to fix the Brent crude market.
The plaintiffs, including several individuals and firms that
traded the oil, accused the defendants of deliberately reporting
inaccurate or false prices, "spoof" orders and transactions with
"aberrant" pricing, as well as conducting illegal "wash sales"
designed to affect prices without exposing participants to
Brent crude is a North Sea oil benchmark used for roughly
two-thirds of the world's internationally traded crude oil
supplies, and is used to set prices for such things as gasoline
and heating oil.
Mercuria is a unit of Switzerland-based Mercuria Energy
Group Ltd, which agreed on March 19 to buy JPMorgan Chase & Co's
physical commodities business for $3.5 billion.
Hess Energy Trading is also known as Hetco, and is a joint
venture between Hess Corp, which holds a 50 percent
stake, and former Goldman Sachs partners Stephen Hendel
and Stephen Semlitz.
In March 2013, Hess said it would divest Hetco as part of a
plan to shed retail, trading and other businesses and focus on
exploration and production.
Mercuria did not immediately respond to a request for
comment. Patrick Scanlan, an outside spokesman for Hetco,
declined to comment.
Among the other defendants previously alleged to have been
involved in price manipulation were Statoil ASA, Morgan
Stanley and the energy trading firm Vitol SA.
The case is In re: North Sea Brent Crude Oil Futures
Litigation, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York,
(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by David