OSLO (Reuters) - Shipping magnate John Fredriksen said U.S. regulator lawsuits against two of his trading firms for suspected oil price manipulation in 2008 were "rubbish," a Norwegian newspaper reported on Thursday.
Dagens Naeringsliv quoted Fredriksen as saying that his traders did not do anything that others were not doing and that suggested that U.S. President Barack Obama was trying to score easy points by going after his companies.
U.S. regulators on Tuesday launched one of the biggest ever crackdowns on oil price manipulation, suing two well-known traders and two trading firms owned by Fredriksen for allegedly making $50 million by squeezing markets.
"This is rubbish," Fredriksen was quoted as saying by the paper. "The ones that buy and sell oil, this is the way they all work. It's a customable trade, to put it like that."
"It's entirely normal to operate like this, this is Obama having a go. At least it's not us, we're innocent," said Fredriksen, who rose from a messenger boy in an Oslo shipping company to the biggest shipping magnate.
The U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) said traders James Dyer of Oklahoma's Parnon Energy, and Nick Wildgoose of Europe-based Arcadia Energy, amassed large physical positions at a key U.S. trading hub to create the impression of tight supplies that would boost oil prices.
Later they dumped those barrels back onto the market, causing prices to crash and racking up profits from short positions they had accrued in futures markets, the suit said.
Fredriksen, who controls the world's biggest independent oil tanker group Frontline and leading offshore rig group SeaDrill among other interests, said: "I have not been sued by American authorities, I am not the one managing this. I don't know anything about this, it's rubbish."
Asked if he feared a fine from U.S. authorities, Fredriksen was quoted as saying: "It's only nonsense, there will be a statement. I don't know when."
(Reporting by Wojciech Moskwa, Terje Solsvik and Mikael Holter; Editing by Ed Lane)