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Trafigura agrees to pay $55 million to settle CFTC charges

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Adds context from Mexico in final three paragraphs

June 17 (Reuters) -A unit of global commodities trader Trafigura has agreed to pay a $55 million civil fine to settle U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission charges of fraud, manipulation and impeding whistleblower communications.

Trafigura Trading LLC, a Houston firm that is part of Trafigura Beheer BV, violated U.S. law and regulations by trading gasoline with material nonpublic information, by manipulating an oil pricing benchmark and by requiring current and former employees to sign agreements that barred them from sharing company information, including with regulators, the CFTC said in a statement on Monday.

The agreements with employees illegally impeded them from voluntarily communication with the CFTC's enforcement staff during their investigation. The charge marked the first time the CFTC has brought an action against a firm for impeding whistleblower communications, the regulator said.

Trafigura, which neither admitted nor denied the CFTC's findings, said it has voluntarily sought to boost its compliance program and has agreed to modify its non-disclosure provisions in employment and severance agreements.

Between2014 and2019, Trafigura traded gasoline while possessing material nonpublic information it knew or should have known was misappropriated from a Mexican trading firm, regulators said.

The firm in February 2017 also manipulated a fuel oil benchmark to benefit its futures and swaps positions, the CFTC said.

In 2021,Reuters revealed that the trading arm of Mexican state energy company Pemex temporarily banned new business with Trafigura as investigations into the energy trader's conduct in several countries deepened.

Neither the CFTC nor Trafigura named Pemex in its recent statements by name. Pemex did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Back then, Pemex traders in Mexico told Reuters they had been asked to honor existing deals but not take on new ones. Two months after the ban, the energy ministry suspended at least five Trafigura import permits. A federal court later lifted the suspensions.

Reporting by Costas Pitas and Ismail Shakil in Washington and Chris Prentice in New York; Additional reporting by Stefanie Eschenbacher in Mexico City; Editing by Aurora Ellis and Marguerita Choy


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