Attorney General Eric Holder today announced the formation of a Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force Working Group to focus specifically on fraud in the energy markets. The Oil and Gas Price Fraud Working Group will monitor oil and gas markets for potential violations of criminal or civil laws to safeguard against unlawful consumer harm.
The working group will include representatives from the Department of Justice, the National Association of Attorneys General, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, the Federal Trade Commission, the Department of the Treasury, the Federal Reserve Board, the Securities and Exchange Commission, as well as the Departments of Agriculture and Energy.
"Rapidly rising gasoline prices are pinching the pockets of consumers across the country," said Attorney General Holder. "We will be vigilant in monitoring the oil and gas markets for any wrongdoing so that consumers can be confident they are not paying higher prices as a result of illegal activity. If illegal conduct is responsible for increasing gas prices, state and federal authorities should take swift action."
In March 2011, President Obama asked the Attorney General to work with federal and state agencies to monitor oil and gas markets for potential wrongdoing. In response to the President's call for action, Department of Justice leadership consulted with federal agencies and state attorneys general and discussed pending inquiries in some states, the most effective legal tools and areas that require additional exploration. As a result of this examination and to further the central mission of the Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force, the Attorney General formed the Oil and Gas Price Fraud Working Group.
The Oil and Gas Price Fraud Working Group will explore whether there is any evidence of manipulation of oil and gas prices, collusion, fraud, or misrepresentations at the retail or wholesale levels that violates state or federal laws and harms consumers or the federal government as a purchaser of oil and gas. The Working Group will also evaluate developments in commodities markets and examine investor practices, supply and demand factors and the role of speculators and index traders in oil futures markets.
The Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force was established by President Obama to wage an aggressive, coordinated, and proactive effort to investigate and prosecute financial crimes and other laws prohibiting financial fraud. The task force includes representatives from a broad range of federal agencies, regulatory authorities, inspectors general, and state and local law enforcement agencies who, working together, bring to bear a powerful array of criminal and civil enforcement resources. The task force is working to improve efforts across the federal executive branch, and with state and local partners, to investigate and prosecute significant financial crimes, ensure just and effective punishment for those who perpetrate financial crimes, combat discrimination in the lending and financial markets, and recover proceeds for victims of financial crimes.