U.S. FERC imposes $304 mln in fines on energy firms in FY2013

Source: BY SCOTT DISAVINO, Reuters • Posted: Monday, November 25, 2013

Nov 21 (Reuters) – U.S. federal energy regulators imposed more than $304 million in fines against energy companies in fiscal 2013 primarily for market manipulation and false reporting activities.

It was the highest yearly total, according to Reuters data.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) on Thursday said its enforcement division staff in fiscal 2013 also forced companies to disgorge an additional $141 million in unjust profits.

FERC officials were not immediately available to confirm the fines imposed were a record, but it was the highest total in Reuters data since Congress in 2005 significantly increased the penalty the commission can impose in the wake of the California energy crisis of 2000-2001.

FERC’s enforcement office has become much more aggressive over the last few years, especially against market manipulation by banks and others in the power market, imposing more than $1 billion in fines since 2007.

FERC said in the report Thursday that its enforcement office focused on matters involving fraud and market manipulation, violations of reliability standards, anticompetitive conduct and actions that threaten the transparency of regulated markets

“Enforcement does not intend to change these priorities in fiscal year 2014,” FERC said.

The commission’s fiscal year begins Oct. 1.

In fiscal 2013, FERC said it approved its largest settlement to date with U.S. bank JPMorgan Chase & Co for $410 million in combined civil penalties and the disgorgement of unjust profits for alleged power market manipulation and making of false statements to regulators.

FERC also said it ordered British bank Barclays Plc to disgorge $34.9 million in unjust profits and pay, with certain of its traders, more than $450 million in civil penalties for allegedly manipulating the power market in California.

Barclays has disputed the penalty, and FERC has sued the bank in federal court in California to recover the monies.

In addition, FERC ordered a unit of UK oil company BP PLC to pay a $28 million civil penalty and disgorge $800,000 in unjust profits for allegedly manipulating the natural gas market. BP is fighting the fine.

FERC said its enforcement office staff opened 24 investigations in fiscal 2013 compared to 16 in fiscal 2012. Of the investigations opened in 2013, the commission said 11 involve market manipulation or false statements.