Achieving a level playing field is sometimes all in the eye of the beholder.
You see, an ongoing issue that has perplexed both oil and natural gas investors and shareholders alike has found its way into the advisories I'm providing to my global investing clients here in Paris.
It involves the ability to value actual assets following a wave of serious corruption revelations.
All of these involve putting a price on trades once oil moves into the wider market.
It all started a month ago when, on the same day, two revelations hit, both centering on continuing legal challenges in trading exchange transactions.
Both connect to oil and may prove to be merely the tip of the iceberg when it comes to oil trading scandals.
Here's how these scandals will affect your energy investments…
The Forex "Cartel"
The first revelation came in a Brooklyn courtroom when the United States finally achieved a guilty verdict in a high-profile forex trading case involving a foreigner.
Mark Johnson, who had been a top HSBC Holdings Plc. (NYSE ADR: HSBC) banker, was found guilty of defrauding a client in a $3.5 billion currency deal.
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The decision could end up having a major impact in the forex market and its more than $5 trillion in daily value.
Johnson himself could receive a 20-year sentence now that he has been found guilty.
The nine counts on which a jury found him guilty involved use of confidential information from the UK oil and gas company, Cairn Energy Plc.
The company had hired HSBC to convert asset sale proceeds from dollars to pound sterling.
However, the indictment charged that Johnson developed a way to trade for the bank before trading for the client.
A "pre-hedging" profit of $7 million was made as a result.
That profit, the government charged, was illicit – and the jury agreed.
Among some of the London-based bankers I know, these kinds of pre-hedges are considered common practice.
Now, it looks like these guys will need to reconsider.
And the next shoe is likely to be falling rather soon…
The U.S. Department of Justice is also seeking to move against Johnson's former colleague Stuart Scott, who is considered to be a co-conspirator in the affair.
Scott headed the HSBC currency desk at the time and is currently resisting extradition.
On the other hand, there's also a lot of interest on a case involving three other UK traders, collectively called the "cartel," on foreign exchange price fixing.
Unlike Scott, these three have not fought extradition and are actively contesting the charges in a separate New York case.
However, a second matter that could shape up to be even more significant has been emerging…
About the Author
Dr. Kent Moors is an internationally recognized expert in oil and natural gas policy, risk assessment, and emerging market economic development. He serves as an advisor to many U.S. governors and foreign governments. Kent details his latest global travels in his free Oil & Energy Investor e-letter. He makes specific investment recommendations in his newsletter, the Energy Advantage. For more active investors, he issues shorter-term trades in his Energy Inner Circle.