JP Morgan to Pay $410m in Penalties for Manipulating Electricity Prices
CAPITALISM, 5 Aug 2013
Regulators said the bank used improper strategies to squeeze payments from agencies which run midwestern power grids.
US energy regulators have hit JP Morgan with $410m in penalties after accusing it of manipulating electricity prices in California and the mid-west.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission said the bank used improper bidding strategies to squeeze excessive payments from the agencies that run the power grids in California and the Midwest.
The agency said JP Morgan has agreed to the penalty, although the company disputes the violations. The penalty includes $285m for the federal government, and $125m for ratepayers.
The agency recently levied a $453m penalty on Barclays, Britain’s second-largest bank, for manipulating electricity prices in California and other western states. Barclays is disputing the allegations.
FERC’s enforcement staff said its investigation had found improper trading practices were used at the company’s Houston-based subsidiary, JPMorgan Ventures Energy Corp.
The energy unit used five “manipulative bidding strategies” in California between September 2010 and June 2011, and three in the mid-west from October 2010 to May 2011, FERC said. The agency that runs the mid-western power grid, now called the Midcontinent Independent System Operator, covers all or parts of 15 states and the Canadian province of Manitoba.
JPMorgan Ventures Energy has contracts with power generating companies to trade their electricity. FERC said the JP Morgan traders offered to sell electricity at artificially low prices in a “day-ahead” market, so that companies would put their plants on standby mode to quickly generate energy. That would allow JPMorgan to earn special fees for putting the power plants on standby mode.
Later, the traders would offer to sell electricity from the plants at higher prices in the market for last-minute energy needs, according to FERC.
FERC suggested in court documents a year ago that bidding practices in JP Morgan’s commodities trading business “may have been designed to manipulate” the markets.
The alleged conduct was brought to FERC’s attention in 2011 by the California Independent System Operator, the agency that runs the state’s power grid.
JP Morgan said Friday that it’s considering selling off part of its physical commodities business, which includes metals as well as energy. The company said the possibility of new regulations was one of the factors behind the decision to look at a potential sale or partnership. Big Wall Street banks like JPMorgan are facing increased scrutiny of their involvement in businesses that store and transport commodities such as oil and aluminum. A Senate committee held a hearing last week into whether banks should be allowed to control power plants, warehouses and oil refineries.
FERC, an independent agency that regulates the interstate transmission of electricity, oil and natural gas, gained expanded authority to monitor possible manipulation of energy markets as a result of the Enron scandal in 2001.
Market abuses by Enron and other trading firms resulted in rolling blackouts throughout California during the summer of that year. FERC was empowered to impose fines of as much as $1m per violation per day, compared with the previous limit of $10,000 per violation.
The states that are served by the Midcontinent Independent System Operator are Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas and Mississippi.
DISCLAIMER: The statements, views and opinions expressed in pieces republished here are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of TMS. In accordance with title 17 U.S.C. section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. TMS has no affiliation whatsoever with the originator of this article nor is TMS endorsed or sponsored by the originator. “GO TO ORIGINAL” links are provided as a convenience to our readers and allow for verification of authenticity. However, as originating pages are often updated by their originating host sites, the versions posted may not match the versions our readers view when clicking the “GO TO ORIGINAL” links. This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of environmental, political, human rights, economic, democracy, scientific, and social justice issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use’, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.
Click here to go to the current weekly digest or pick another article: