U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) issued the following statement in response to today's $410 million settlement that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) finalized with JPMorgan Chase over the bank's manipulation of electricity markets in California and the Midwest. The settlement included $125 million of unjust profits that will be returned to affected consumers in California and the Midwest. The remaining $285 million of the settlement are civil penalties that will be sent back to the U.S. Treasury.
Cantwell has aggressively fought throughout her career to protect consumers from energy price manipulation. In the aftermath of Enron's schemes that cost Washington ratepayers billions, Cantwell authored an amendment to the Energy Policy Act of 2005 that enabled FERC to better investigate and punish energy market manipulation in the electricity and natural gas markets.
"This $410 million settlement with JP Morgan is the largest fine ever settled for energy market manipulation under FERC's new authority," said Cantwell. "FERC is doing exactly what Congress intended when we gave them this authority 8 years ago: drawing a bright line to deter market manipulation.
"This action sends a message loud and clear: Americans will not tolerate manipulation of our energy markets," continued Cantwell. "Wall Street firms that illegally manipulate energy markets should be brought to justice -- regardless of how large or influential they are. I applaud FERC for its diligent work in pursuing these manipulative schemes."
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 also 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.