Happily for a brood of law firms with big bank clients, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is intent on beating up Wall Street for alleged market manipulation. The latest to strike a deal with FERC is JPMorgan Chase & Co., represented by a team from Covington & Burling and Morrison & Foerster.
FERC on Tuesday approved a record $410 million settlement with JPMorgan to settle claims that an energy subsidiary of the bank manipulated electricity markets in California and the midwest from 2010 to 2012. Under the terms of the agreement, JPMorgan will pay a civil penalty of $285 million and disgorge $125 million in profits to ratepayers. The bank neither admitted nor denied wrongdoing.
Covington's William Massey represented JPMorgan along with his former partner Robert Fleishman, who moved to Morrison & Foerster as senior of counsel earlier this month. "J.P. Morgan Ventures Energy is pleased to have reached an agreement with FERC to put this matter behind it," the company said in a statement. The bank noted that due to reserves previously set aside, the settlement would not have a material impact on earnings.
The settlement notably stopped short of punishing any individuals at the bank involved in the alleged market manipulations. The New York Times reported in May that FERC had informed JPMorgan that it might seek to sanction Blythe Masters, head of the bank's commodities business, and three other individuals. Instead, lawyers for Masters and the other three executives–Francis Dunleavy, Andrew Kittell and John Bartholomew–helped keep them out of the line of fire. Dechert chair Andrew Levander represented Masters. Dunleavy, Kittell, and Bartholomew turned to Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher's William Scherman.
Levander wasn't immediately available for comment Tuesday. Gibson Dunn's Scherman said in a statement that his clients made it clear to FERC that they'd fight tooth and nail in court against any enforcement action. "The Commission’s decision to voluntarily settle with JPMorgan and not proceed against the individuals can only be read as the Commission correctly concluding that no case or findings against the individuals could be sustained in a court of law," Scherman said.
The absence of penalties against individuals in the JPMorgan case stands in contrast to FERC's actions earlier this month against Barclays plc. As we reported, FERC fined four individuals at Barclays a combined $18 million when it hit the British bank with a whopping $435 million penalty for alleged manipulations of electric energy prices in California and other western markets. Barclays and its counsel at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom and Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft have vowed to contest FERC's fine.
Ross Todd is a senior reporter with The Litigation Daily, a Recorder affiliate.