U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) today praised the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) for its order that directed Barclays to pay $435 million in civil penalties within 30 days for manipulating West Coast power markets. The order also directed Barclays to disgorge $34.9 million in unjust profits, plus interest, from its manipulative scheme that allegedly harmed ratepayers in Washington state, Oregon, California and Arizona. Some $3.1 would go to Washington's Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP).
"This is a record penalty for manipulation. FERC is standing tall: Manipulation of energy markets will not be tolerated," said Cantwell. "FERC is doing exactly what Congress asked them to do: aggressively police energy markets to protect the American consumer. I applaud FERC for its tenacity in investigating complicated manipulative schemes that span multiple markets. Such strong enforcement of the rules is critical to restoring trust and confidence in our energy markets."
In the aftermath of Enron's schemes that cost Washington ratepayers billions, Cantwell authored an amendment to the Energy Policy Act of 2005 that strengthened FERC's authority to investigate and punish energy market manipulation. Today, by committing additional resources and assembling a team of experts capable of understanding the complex energy and financial markets, FERC is using that law to root out fraud, impose civilian fines and disgorge illicit profits from energy manipulators.
The 2005 Energy Bill also contained Cantwell's provision that prevented a bankruptcy court from forcing Snohomish Public Utility District (PUD) and its customers to pay millions of dollars in termination fees for electricity that was never delivered. This measure reaffirmed FERC's authority to decide whether charges related to manipulated power contracts could be deemed invalid.
Cantwell has aggressively fought throughout her career to protect consumers from energy price manipulation. She successfully fought in 2007 to give the Federal Trade Commission oversight of the wholesale petroleum markets. In 2010 under the Dodd-Frank Consumer Protection Act, she worked to give the Commodity Futures Trading Commission oversight in the derivatives markets. From her first days in office Cantwell pushed to expose Enron's manipulation of deregulated energy markets. On December 2, 2001 Enron filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy leading to the dismissal of more than 22,000 employees. Cantwell helped uncover numerous "smoking gun' audio tapes and memos that detailed the tricks Enron used to artificially drive up electricity prices.