A Justice Department investigation of JPMorgan Chase & Co.’s energy-trading practices is examining whether criminal laws were violated by individuals, according to a person briefed on the matter.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation is working with U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, said the person, who asked not to be named because the inquiry isn’t public. Bharara’s inquiry, reported by the Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg News earlier this week, looks at conduct at issue in the bank’s $410 million civil settlement last month with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. The FERC had accused the bank of manipulating power markets in California and the Midwest.
It’s the second criminal probe of the bank to emerge this month, after the lender disclosed Aug. 7 that the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Sacramento, California, opened a separate criminal inquiry into the firm’s mortgage-bond practices. Investigators in that case told the bank in May that they have preliminarily concluded the company violated civil laws, JPMorgan said in the disclosure.
JPMorgan’s energy-trading unit engaged in 12 bidding strategies in wholesale energy markets from September 2010 to November 2012 that resulted in tens of millions of dollars in overpayments from grid operators, the FERC said while announcing the settlement on July 29. It didn’t take action against any individuals.
The person briefed on the FBI’s inquiry didn’t specify which people agents may investigate. Jennifer Queliz, a spokeswoman for Bharara, and Mark Kornblau at JPMorgan declined to comment on the probe.
While the FERC deal released the New York-based company and its employees from future enforcement actions by the regulator, it didn’t preclude other U.S. authorities from pursuing their own investigations. FERC Chairman Jon Wellinghoff said in an interview at the time that he wasn’t aware of any separate investigations.
“We have had some discussions with some agencies that I can’t disclose at this time,” he said.
JPMorgan accepted the facts in the FERC settlement without admitting or denying wrongdoing, the agency said. The firm announced last month that it’s looking for ways to exit the physical commodities business, which includes energy trading.
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