Rogue trades cost oil broker $10m
A rogue trader at a London oil broker caused his employer to lose $10m (£6m) after making unauthorised trades.
PVM Oil Futures said it was a "victim of unauthorised trading" on Tuesday, 30 June, and said it was now conducting a full investigation.
The rogue trader, believed to be Steve Perkins, has been suspended.
PVM said it had informed the Financial Services Authority and the InterContinental Exchange (ICE), the location for much European oil trade.
Firms have systems to pick up oddities and anomalies... The question is how fast were they able to get on top of it and deal with it
Nick McGregor, Redmayne Bentley
The trades are thought to have caused a jump in the price of Brent crude oil on Tuesday. PVM said it was now conducting business as normal.
"As a result of a series of unauthorised trades, substantial volumes of futures contracts were held by PVM. When this was discovered, the positions were closed in an orderly fashion. PVM suffered a loss totalling a little under $10m," the company said in a statement.
"There are a range of procedures that are followed to look at trading patterns, price movement and levels of activity," explained David Peniket, the president of ICE Futures Europe, which trades futures and energy and commodity contracts.
"It will investigate and follow up, and where appropriate, action will be taken," he added.
On Tuesday morning, the price of Brent crude rose about $2 a barrel in the space of an hour, hitting $73.50 a barrel before reversing sharply in volatile trade.
In that time, contracts for 16 million barrels of oil changed hands - 32 times the normal level - equivalent to double the daily production of Saudi Arabia.
OTHER ROGUE TRADES
June 2008 - Morgan Stanley loses £79m after London-based trader Matthew Piper is found to have deliberately mis-priced trades in the credit markets
Feb 2008 - Unnamed employee at US trading giant MF Global loses his company more than $140m (£86m) after placing unauthorised bets on the future direction of wheat prices
Jan 2008 - Jerome Kerviel costs French bank Societe Generale 4.9bn euros ($6.9bn; £4.2bn) after he makes unauthorised and incorrect bets on market movements
By the time PVM sold the futures contracts the trader had bought, the price had fallen, which is why PVM booked losses of $10m, Nick McGregor at Redmayne Bentley told the BBC.
"In the very small hours, while volumes are relatively low during Asian trading because most of London is asleep, an awful lot of business went through and as it turns out it all came from the same source," Mr McGregor said.
"This all happened within an hour at about two o'clock in the morning, and of course in a thin market at that sort of time, it doesn't take an awful lot to move the price."
With volume so thin, the trade stood out, which is why the "rogue trade" has emerged so quickly, he added.
"Firms have systems to pick up oddities and anomalies, but of course at two o'clock in the morning, I am sure it rang a little bell. The question is how fast were they able to get on top of it and deal with it," he said.
Oil is the world's most heavily traded commodity, with trading centred on the ICE in London and the New York Mercantile Exchange or Nymex.
Brokerages like PVM place orders on behalf of large banks and hedge funds.
On Friday morning, Brent crude oil hovered above $66 a barrel in light holiday trading.