Attorney General Bonta Announces $50 Million Settlement with Vitol and SK as Part of Ongoing Enforcement Against Big Oil

Wednesday, July 10, 2024
Contact: (916) 210-6000,

OAKLAND — California Attorney General Rob Bonta today announced a $50 million settlement with gas trading firms, resolving allegations that Vitol, Inc. (Vitol) and SK Energy Americas, Inc., along with its parent company SK Trading International (SK), secretly worked together to tamper with and manipulate spot market prices for California gasoline. The settlement reflects Attorney General Bonta’s larger effort to hold Big Oil accountable for unlawful price increases and anticompetitive behavior. SBX1-2 (Skinner), which passed last spring and was co-sponsored by Attorney General Bonta and Governor Newsom, established new oversight over petroleum markets.

 “Petroleum companies should not get to reap mass profits out of the pockets of hardworking Californians through illegal market manipulation,” said Attorney General Rob Bonta. “Market manipulation and price gouging are illegal and unacceptable, particularly during times of crisis when people are most vulnerable. That's why California passed the nation-leading legislation SBX1-2, which improves transparency in the oil industry so we can root out the causes of price irregularities and take action if we find companies violating the law. Today's settlement is an important reminder that no one is above the law.”

“When oil companies manipulate markets to line their own pockets, California will hold them accountable, and I commend my former colleagues in the Department of Justice on seeing this landmark case through to a successful conclusion,” said Tai Milder, Director of the Division of Petroleum Market Oversight. “Today, with Senate Bill X1-2 — the Gas Price Gouging and Transparency Law — California has even stronger tools to monitor the oil industry, expose bad actors, and protect consumers. These tools make it harder for industry actors like these firms to engage in this kind of misconduct in the first place."

This settlement resolves allegations brought in the California Department of Justice's lawsuit filed in May 2020. The lawsuit alleged that Vitol and SK took advantage of the market disruption following a February 2015 explosion at a gasoline refinery in Torrance, California to engage in a scheme to drive up gas prices for their own profit. These alleged actions illegally suppressed competition within the gasoline market and forced California consumers to pay more for gasoline.

To qualify for a settlement payment, you must submit a claim. Once the court authorizes the issuance of notice to California residents, you can submit a claim online at

Under the settlement and SBX1-2, if the firms resumed operations in California, Vitol and SK would be required to submit:

  • A daily report to the Energy Commission containing certain information for each transaction occurring in the preceding day.
  • Weekly reports to the Energy Commission that include the weekly inventory volume, by type, such as gasoline, gasoline blending components, diesel fuel, or renewable fuels, for each position holder by name of company, and copies of all contracts or agreements entered into with any refiners, oil producers, petroleum product transporters, petroleum product marketers, petroleum product pipeline operators, terminal operators, or any other entity that trades in petroleum products whether or not those entities take possession of those products, as designated by the Energy Commission.

SBX1-2, authored by Senator Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley), co-sponsored by Attorney General Bonta and Governor Newsom, and approved by a supermajority in both the Senate and Assembly, created a dedicated independent watchdog to root out market manipulation and price gouging by oil companies. The law went into effect on June 26, 2023.  

Attorney General Bonta is committed to holding Big Oil accountable. Last September, Attorney General Bonta and Governor Newsom filed a lawsuit against five of the largest oil and gas companies in the world — Exxon Mobil, Shell, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, and BP — and the American Petroleum Institute for allegedly engaging in a decades-long campaign of deception and creating climate change-related harms in California. Last month, Attorney General Bonta filed an amended complaint in this case, adding a remedy that would require the defendants to give up the profits gained through their illegal conduct. The amended complaint also includes additional examples of recent false advertising and greenwashing by the oil companies.

This settlement is in addition to a settlement of a private class action lawsuit filed in federal court. 

A copy of the Attorney General’s complaint is available here. For settlement information, please see here and here

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