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Competition Law360: Government Scrutiny of Energy Industry Is Heating Up

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WASHINGTON, D.C., June 14, 2011 -- In a recent article in Competition Law360, Baker Botts L.L.P. lawyers Joe Ostoyich, Brad Berry and Mark Robeck noted that the Obama administration’s recent creation of the inter-agency Oil and Gas Price Fraud Working Group has led to a heightened level of scrutiny of the oil and gas sector.

The article noted that last month four U.S. senators (Harry Reid, D-Nev., Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., Patty Murray, D-Wash., and Claire McCaskill, D-Mo.) wrote a letter to the chairman of the Federal Trade Commission citing unspecified “concerns” and “allegations” that refiners might have agreed to cut back on gasoline supplies in order to keep gasoline prices high.
The lawmakers urged the chairman to open an investigation into these allegations. They did not identify any source for these concerns or allegations, but simply noted their view that “[a]t a time when major refiners and oil companies are making record profits and American families continue to struggle with gasoline at record prices, the idea that refiners may be manipulating the market to keep prices artificially high is offensive.”

The letter acknowledges, the article’s authors wrote, that a number of factors other than collusion have caused increased gas prices at the pump. The U.S. Senators noted, for example, that “the rise in the price of oil is certainly a driving factor behind the recent rise in gasoline prices,” and that recent flooding along the Mississippi River may also be a factor.

The complete article is available here.

Joseph Ostoyich is a partner in the antitrust practice group at Baker Botts LLP in the firm’s Washington, D.C., office.

Brad Berry is a partner in the firm’s energy regulatory practice group in the Washington office.

Mark Robeck is co-chairman of the firm’s energy litigation practice group and a partner in the firm’s Houston office.

About Baker Botts L.L.P.
Baker Botts is an international law firm with over 725 lawyers and a network of 13 offices around the globe. Based on our experience and knowledge of our clients’ industries, we are recognized as a leading firm in the energy, technology and life sciences sectors. Throughout our 170-year history, we have provided creative and effective legal solutions for our clients while demonstrating an unrelenting commitment to excellence. For more information, please visit www.bakerbotts.com.

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