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The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. : UPDATE : Oil Price Reporting Agencies Propose Regulatory Code

04/30/2012 | 04:32pm US/Eastern

("UPDATE: Oil Price Reporting Agencies Propose Regulatory Code," at 2:57 p.m. EDT, misstated function the agencies are responsible for in the second paragraph. The correct version follows:)

--Top oil price reporting agencies propose code to provide for self-regulation

--Proposal follows IOSCO consultation on regulation of PRAs

--PRAs seeking feedback from the industry on the draft code

   By Sarah Kent 

Three of the world's top oil price reporting agencies Monday laid out a proposal for a price reporting code designed to provide the industry with a more robust framework of regulation, even as it comes under increasing scrutiny by international regulators.

Between them, Platts, Argus Media Group, and ICIS are responsible for assessing the price of many of the world's main oil and oil product benchmarks, but are subject to virtually no external regulation.

Since the financial crisis in 2008, however, the call for greater oversight of these agencies has increased.

The Group of 20 industrial and developing nations last year asked the International Organization of Securities Commissions to examine the role of price reporting agencies, or PRAs, and prepare recommendations to improve their functioning and oversight by the middle of this year.

The launch of the draft code follows a 30-day consultancy in March by IOSCO on the potential need for closer oversight of oil PRAs, though the agencies say they began working on it late last year.

"We're not aware of any evidence that the current system of price reporting is broken or that the benefits of reforming the system would outweigh the cost of change," said Larry Neal, president of McGraw Hill Cos.-owned (MHP) Platts.

"That being said, we view ourselves as always striving to improve and we believe that the code we're putting out in draft form is really the best way to balance proper disclosure with editorial independence," he added.

The agencies said their proposed code provides for "robust monitoring and compliance."

In its current form, the code would require the Chief Executive of all signatories to annually sign a statement of compliance and also provide for periodical external audits.

"The code is designed to demonstrate and ensure that all signatories meet the high standards and principles of good governance required to effectively serve the markets and customers," the companies said in a joint press statement.

The agencies are concerned that tighter regulation could impose restrictions on the methodology they use for price assessment, which they argue must be flexible to cater to a constantly developing market. They also worry that stricter oversight could discourage some market participants from providing them with information vital to accurate price reporting.

"Clearly there's a lot of concern over the financial markets following what happened in 2008 and clearly there's going to be some scrutiny, but the physical oil market is very different to the financial markets," said Adrian Binks, Argus Media chairman and chief executive. "This puts into a code a lot of the best practices that we have already developed," he added.

The agencies are now seeking feedback from the industry and regulators.

-By Sarah Kent, Dow Jones Newswires; 4420-7842-9376; sarah.kent@dowjones.com

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