Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Oil Giants Offer Documents on Probe

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Oil Giants Offer Documents on Probe

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON (Bloomberg) -- The U.S.'s biggest oil companies have been shipping boxes of documents to the Justice Department as part of the federal agency's probe into possible price collusion in the oil industry.

Officials at Atlantic Richfield Co., Amoco Corp. and Texaco Inc. said they received requests for information, known as civil investigative demands, from the Justice Department's antitrust division. The agency sent a list to the companies, seeking information on such issues as what factors affect gas prices and asking for written responses to specific questions.

While Los Angeles-based Atlantic Richfield shipped the last of its documents on July 12, Amoco and Texaco are still filling boxes addressed to the Justice Department. Mobil Corp., Exxon Corp. and Chevron Corp. didn't return phone calls to confirm that they'd been contacted.

"It's fair to characterize the amount of documents requested as `voluminous,'" said Jim Fair, a spokesman for Amoco. The Chicago- based company is still gathering information to respond to Justice's requests, which it received at the end of May, he said.

Antitrust authorities launched a probe of the oil industry on April 30 after gas prices hit 15-year highs, raising consumer ire and grabbing the attention of politicians fighting for votes in an election year.

The average price for unleaded fuel in April reached $1.307 a gallon, up almost 18 cents from January's pump price, according to the American Automobile Association's monthly Fuel Gauge Survey. After topping out in May, prices began declining in June and July, although they remained more than 6 cents higher than the average price a year ago.

The companies attributed the higher gas prices to increased demand and diminished supply. Last winter, record-low temperatures and repeated snowstorms in the East caused oil refineries to use more oil for home heating and less for gasoline, resulting in higher crude oil prices. …

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