JPMorgan owes $410 million in energy suit

Accused of using improper tactics

JPMorgan Chase agreed to pay a multimillion dollar settlement to resolve US charges that it manipulated power prices.
JPMorgan Chase agreed to pay a multimillion dollar settlement to resolve US charges that it manipulated power prices.

WASHINGTON — JPMorgan Chase & Co. agreed to pay $410 million on Tuesday to settle accusations by US energy regulators that it manipulated electricity prices.

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 improper conduct occurred between September 2010 and November 2012, FERC said.

JPMorgan, the biggest US bank, is paying a civil penalty of $285 million and returning $125 million in allegedly improper profits.


FERC said its investigation had found improper trading practices were used at Houston-based JPMorgan Ventures Energy Corp.

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New York-based JPMorgan said in a written statement that it is ‘‘pleased to have reached an agreement with FERC to put this matter behind it.” JPMorgan did not admit or deny any violations.

The move is part of a broad crackdown by FERC on alleged price manipulation. FERC recently levied a $453 million penalty on Barclays, Britain’s second-largest bank, for manipulating electricity prices in California and other Western states.

FERC claimed JPMorgan’s energy unit used five ‘‘manipulative bidding strategies’’ in California between September 2010 and June 2011, and three in the Midwest from October 2010 to May 2011.

JPMorgan Ventures Energy has contracts with power-generating companies to trade their electricity. FERC said the JPMorgan 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 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 JPMorgan’s commodities trading business ‘‘may have been designed to manipulate’’ the markets. The alleged conduct was brought to FERC’s attention in 2011.