Unsure if perspicacious others have already posted this; if so, please pardon. JPMC is facing a lawsuit from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on charges of bid-fixing that both hurt energy consumers and profited JPMC in a legal but illicit way. Hit the jump for details.
Papers filed in federal court said the bank’s bidding practices may have inflated electricity costs by more than $57 million, but that just covers a six-month period. Some estimates put the cost to utility users as high as $200 million. Those numbers got the attention of the California Independent System Operator (CalISO)—a non-profit controlled by the state that oversees 80% of the state’s electrical transmissions—although they pale in comparison to the multi-billion-dollar scandal over credit derivatives currently roiling the bank.Comparisons to Enron are made, quite justly so.
More about the specifics:
The JPMorgan scheme involves manipulation of the state’s market-based energy auction system, according to experts consulted by the Los Angeles Times. The bank essentially submits preliminary low bids for energy (perhaps even at a negative amount), thus qualifying for “a bid cost recovery” payment even if they aren’t excepted (sic). Those bids would be money losers for JPMorgan if accepted, but the next day it submits real bids too high to be accepted and pockets the windfall.In simpler terms, JPMC deliberately underbid to qualify for taxpayer-funded subsidy as an energy producer (based on the logical, if in this case flawed, assumption that the energy company expended funds and resources to generate the energy to be sold), then deliberately overbids the following day to ensure its bids wouldn't be accepted... thus walking away with the subsidy for free.
As in much corporate bad behavior, the scandal isn’t necessarily based on what’s illegal; it’s what’s legal and venerated as astute business practice.
Thus, because it's legal, I have to put a question-mark after the word "scandal." After all - and this is the argument being used - JPMC wasn't doing anything outside the law. And this is considered astute business practice? One wonders when ethics left the room.
Around 1977 would be my guess.
Again, apologies to all if this is old or previously broken news. Thanks for reading.