New York comptroller calls for price gouging probe

| 5/11/2006

William Thompson, comptroller for the City of New York, has fired off letters to 11 major oil companies urging them to investigate allegations of price gouging.

According to a news release, Thompson sent letters on behalf of the New York City Pension Funds – for which he is the investment advisor – to ExxonMobil, Chevron Corp., ConocoPhillips, Hess Corp., Marathon Oil Corp., Murphy Oil Corp., Occidental Petroleum, BP Amoco PLC, Valero, Sonoco and Royal Dutch Shell.

The New York City Pension Funds collectively hold nearly 40 million shares in the oil companies with a market value of more than $2.4 billion, according to the release. The primary investment among those shares is ExxonMobil.

In his letter to ExxonMobil chairman William Howell, Thompson wrote: “I write to express my deep concern about increasing public outrage which is being fueled by allegations that ExxonMobil and other companies are engaging in price gouging by artificially pushing up gasoline prices at the pumps.

“While ordinary people are being burdened by rising gas prices, a privileged few, the top executives at ExxonMobil and other oil companies, are reportedly lining their pockets with hundreds of millions in excessive compensation.”

Thompson asked the audit committees of the 11 companies to “undertake a comprehensive review of the company’s activities to determine whether the allegations of price gouging are true or false.”

He also asked the compensation committees to “review the company’s performance-based executive compensation program to determine whether executives are benefiting from the windfall profits that are being generated by rising gas prices.”