The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is preparing subpoenas to petroleum companies as part of an investigation into rising gasoline prices, according to a July 27 2011 report in Bloomberg. This was attributed to a "person familiar with the matter", who indicated that certain companies had been told to stand by for the subpoenas.

This may relate to the announcement in April by President Obama about the creation of a taskforce to investigate possible illegal conduct in oil markets as a cause for the rise in gasoline prices.

Although the FTC has broad authority to investigate conduct under Section 5 of the FTC Act, this investigation may use its relatively new authority to investigate "market manipulation" in crude oil and gasoline.

The FTC also has several administrative tools at its disposal for obtaining documents from third parties. The first is a subpoena, which compels a third party to produce documents to the FTC or provide sworn testimony in the form of an investigational hearing. Another option is for the agency to issue a civil investigative demand, which usually includes interrogatories that require written responses from the third party.

The FTC often expects a short turnaround for subpoenas and civil investigative demands and will set response dates accordingly. However, parties may negotiate an extension of the response date and should pay particular attention to the date for the motion to quash - the date by which the FTC must be notified if the party does not intend to produce information or seeks to limit the information it is required to submit.

For further information on this topic please contact Layne E Kruse or Erika Brown Lee at Fulbright & Jaworski LLP by telephone (+1 202 662 0200), fax (+1 202 662 4643) or email ([email protected] or [email protected]).