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Are Russian oil prices being rigged?

By Simon Johnson

01 Mar 2023 · 3 min read

Editor's Note

The G7 and EU capped the price per barrel of Russian crude at $60. But some experts say reports indicating Russian oil is trading at or below that level are inaccurate, Simon Johnson writes for PS.

WASHINGTON, DC – In 2012, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission grabbed international attention by investigating the manipulation of LIBOR, Euribor, and other interest-rate benchmarks. By 2015, the CFTC had fined six financial intermediaries a total of $2.7 billion for “similar misconduct relating to foreign exchange benchmarks,” and a whistleblower was awarded $200 million for helping to break open these cases. Now, the CFTC should turn its enforcement efforts to the reporting and potential manipulation of global oil prices.

The specific issue that is attracting attention concerns the price paid for Russian crude oil and refined products. The G7, the European Union, and their allies have imposed a price cap of $60 per barrel on crude transported by tanker, together with roughly equivalent caps for diesel, fuel oil, and other oil derivatives. Initial reports indicated that Russian oil was trading at or below those levels.

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