"As this investigation deepens, you could see more companies from outside the energy industry being investigated, or at least asked to provide information," Greg Asciolla, who co-chairs Labaton Sucharow LLP's antitrust and competition litigation practice, told Law360.
Indeed, if the EC probe uncovers manipulation of other key benchmarks such as Platts' North Sea Dated Brent benchmark, the impact would be huge, according to Asciolla.
"Not only is this benchmark used to set the price for much of the world's crude oil and biofuels, but also futures and derivatives products traded on NYMEX and ICE that are based on these underlying physical commodities," Asciolla said. "Governments and big companies, including airlines, hedge against oil price fluctuations. They're usually doing that through the purchase of futures and options contracts, which can include Brent crude benchmark-based financial products."