Exclusive: JPMorgan subject of obstruction probe in energy case

Wed Sep 4, 2013 12:01pm EDT
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By Emily Flitter

NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. authorities are conducting a criminal investigation into whether several employees of JPMorgan Chase & Co tried to impede a regulatory investigation into alleged manipulation of power markets, according to multiple sources familiar with the matter.

The probe, which is in its early stages, is being conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and prosecutors in Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara's office. It comes after a JPMorgan subsidiary agreed on July 30 to pay a $410 million penalty to settle a manipulation case brought by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

The sources said investigators aim to determine whether individuals at JPMorgan - including three Houston-based employees - gave regulators all the information they needed to investigate JPMorgan's power market deals in California and the Midwest.

Deliberately withholding information from investigators or lying during interviews conducted as part of an investigation is considered obstruction of justice, a criminal offense.

Jennifer Queliz, a spokeswoman for Bharara, and Peter Donald, a spokesman for the FBI, both declined to comment.

On July 30, FERC announced JPMorgan Ventures Energy Corp had agreed to settle a case in which FERC alleged the bank had used "manipulative bidding strategies" from September 2010 through November 2012.

As part of the settlement, according to FERC, JPMorgan admitted the facts in the agreement but "did not admit or deny the violations."

JPMorgan has said publicly it told regulators it did not lie during the investigations. No individual from the bank has been accused of wrongdoing.   Continued...

Two men walk past the front desk inside of the headquarters of JPMorgan Chase & Co bank in New York, March 15, 2013. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson