It is a curious characteristic of big business that they are all in favour of competition as long as that means letting them onto the playing field. Once they get on the playing field the story changes: they have a tendency to develop a sudden dislike of competition and attempt to stomp all over it until, ideally, they are the only ones left on the field. Lord Browne’s BP was no exception:
Last week the Commodities Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) charged British oil giant BP with conspiring to manipulate the propane market. The Commission seems to have BP dead to rights on conspiracy charges. In volumes of recorded conversations, BP traders brag that if their scheme worked they would “be able to control the market at will.”
BP will pay up to $303 million in civil and criminal penalties for attempting to corner the U.S. propane market in 2004, the largest fine ever handed down by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission.
Rupert Murdoch also has a love of competition. This is why he campaigns relentlessly against the BBC – it is ‘unfair’ competition. And that is presumably why he is trying to buy himself into a near-monopoly position in the UK media market. There’s nothing particularly unusual about BP’s approach, but it doesn’t quite fit with the notion that businesses are tireless champions of competition and choice.