Explaining Southern California's economy

JP Morgan's manipulation of power markets? CAISO can't say much

Mark Lennihan/AP

JPMorgan, the largest bank in the United States is reeling from a multi-billion trading loss. But it's also being investigated for 'gaming' the energy markets in California.

JPMorgan, the country's biggest bank, is under investigation for manipulating electricity markets in California and the Midwest. But because this is a federal investigation, no one is really saying much.

A JP Morgan spokesman told the media that the company believes it has "complied in all respects with the law."

And Steven Greenlee, a spokesperson for the California Independent System Operator, which oversees the state's power grid, told me that "because of the ongoing investigation of potential manipulations and communications violations related to the California ISO market, we are not allowed to provide details at this time."

I hadn't seen any reporting on "communications violations," outside FERC demands for emails that came from JPMorgan's commodities group, so I followed up the Greenlee to get some insight. No reponse yet, but it is Friday, and it's a holiday week. I'll update when I get more information.

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JPMorgan under investigation for manipulating California energy markets

Mark Lennihan/AP

JPMorgan, the largest bank in the United States, in under investigation by the federal government for manipulating energy markets in California and the Midwest.

JPMorgan Chase was the darling of the U.S. financial system after everything fell apart in 2008. The bank, now the country's largest, picked up a lot of respect for avoiding the high-risk game that took down Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers and threatened many of the country's biggest banks, including Bank of America and Citigroup (in fact, it stepped up to buy Bear Stearns in an early effort by the government to stem the crisis).

Californians have gotten used to seeing the "Chase" logo because atfer JPMorgan took over bankrupty Washington Mutual in 2008, it changed hundreds of West Coast WaMu branches to Chase branches.

But things haven't been so rosy for JPMorgan of late. It's been dealing with a trading scandal that could wind up costing it $9 billion, in a worst case scenario. It's CEO, Jamie Dimon, has had to testify before Congress. And just last week, we learned that JPMorgan is being investigated by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), for "[manipulating] power markets in California and the Midwest, according to the New York Times.

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