* FERC is "an equal opportunity enforcer"-Wellinghoff
* Recent actions target Barclays, JPMorgan, Deutsche Bank
By Roberta Rampton
WASHINGTON, Dec 6 The federal electricity
regulator has turned heads with recent manipulation cases
against large banks that trade power, but its chairman said on
Thursday the agency is not aiming to push Wall Street out of the
"We're an equal opportunity enforcer. We'll go after anybody
who we believe is engaged in an activity that is inappropriate
or is in violation of the statute," Jon Wellinghoff, chairman of
the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, told reporters.
The agency recently proposed a record $470 million fine on
British bank Barclays, and a six-month ban on JPMorgan
Chase & Co's energy trading arm from part of the
domestic power market.
It is also seeking a $1.5 million fine from Deutsche Bank
AG's energy trading arm for alleged manipulation.
"We're not trying to push anybody out of any business. We're
just trying to make sure that the markets are operating fairly
and that there is a minimum of fraud and manipulation,"
The banks are fighting the charges and fines. Barclays said
last week it was reserving its option to fight the proposed fine
in U.S. district court.
"I'm not surprised that anybody's going to push back if
you're coming after them and they're subject to very substantial
penalties, which all these entities are," Wellinghoff said.
The agency has received "a great deal of support" for its
action by lawmakers, who gave the agency new enforcement powers
in 2005, after the Enron scandal exposed efforts to manipulate
"That's why Congress gave us that authority, to actually
have some teeth in the law to be able to police the industry and
police the markets," Wellinghoff said.
It has taken FERC some time to get analysts and experienced
attorneys in place to pull cases together, he said, explaining
the sudden spike in the number of enforcement cases.
FERC's office of enforcement has about 200 staff, up from
about 20 during the Enron era. It is led by Norman Bay, a former
U.S. district attorney from New Mexico, and other high-profile
"It's just a matter of us finally gearing up, having the
resources, having the capabilities," Wellinghoff said.