02 November 2007 | Andy Allen
Petroleum giant BP has been hit with a record fine of more than $300 million in the US for a propane price-fixing scam.
The company was forced to pay $303 million (£145.4 million) and four former staff have been indicted for conspiracy fraud as result of attempts to corner the market and inflate the price of propane carried through Texas pipelines.
Had it been successful, the US Department of Justice said, the conspirators "would know that they and BP could control the market at will".
The Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), which launched the prosecution, said the $303 million paid by BP had been the largest settlement in their history. Walt Lukken, CFTC acting chairman, said in a statement: "BP engaged in massive manipulation - the magnitude of this settlement reflects that."
BP America has admitted it manipulated the price of propane and said of the fraudulent trades: "Our view of the legality of these trades changed as our knowledge of the facts surrounding them became more complete. This settlement acknowledges our failure to adequately oversee our trading operation."