Counterparties: More price manipulation by Barclays
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With an estimated 4.6 million homes and businesses without electricity across the East Coast, including the vulnerable elderly, it‚Äôs hard to imagine a worse time to be accused of manipulating the energy market. That‚Äôs where Barclays finds itself, facing a record $470 million fine from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
Here are the details from Reuters:
The team of four traders… exchanged messages explaining how they would “crap on” certain prices in one market to profit in another.
The traders are alleged to have manipulated power prices [from late 2006 throught 2008] — driving up or down physical power prices to make money with their financial swap positions. That is alleged to have caused losses for rival power traders of $139 million — and netted the bank gains of $34.9 million.
If that sounds familiar, it should. The traders at the heart of the investigation formerly worked at Mirant, which paid $11 million to settle federal charges that it manipulated natural gas markets in 2000. At the same time, Enron‚Äôs traders were bragging about causing ‚ÄúGrandma Millie‚Äôs‚ÄĚ sky-rocketing electricity bills.
Trying to move physical power prices so that your swap book benefits is an order of magnitude away from attempting to take power plants offline, but adding ‚ÄúEnron-esque‚ÄĚ and ‚Äúscandal-ridden‚ÄĚ to the list of Barclays descriptors must smart. Particularly for the bank‚Äôs new law-and-order chairman.
A separate investigation into Barclays‚Äô relationship with the Qatar Investment Authority at the height of the financial crisis has moved stateside. The WSJ‚Äôs David Enrich reports that the US is investigating possible violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. The UK Serious Fraud Office is already pursuing allegations that the bank paid ¬£300 million in advisory fees to the Qataris in order to secure an $7.1 billion investment in Barclays. And in case you missed it, Barclays reported ¬£1.7 billion in profits for the third quarter. — Ben Walsh
On to today‚Äôs links: