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JPMorgan Can’t Justify Withholding E-Mails, FERC Says

JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM) can’t show that 25 e-mails sought in an investigation of possible energy-market manipulation contain advice from lawyers and should remain out of reach of regulators, the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission told a federal magistrate.

The agency, in a filing today in U.S. District Court in Washington, said that JPMorgan made identical attorney-client privilege claims for 28 other e-mails that were later turned over to regulators. Some of the earlier e-mails that JPMorgan claimed contained legal advice were messages that said “Great job compliance,” “Are you being sarcastic?” and “Plse call ASAP,” according to the filing.

“JPMorgan’s current privilege claims are the same as those it improperly made about unprivileged documents,” Thomas Olson and Vivian Chum, lawyers for the agency, wrote in the filing.

FERC sued JPMorgan on July 2 to release the e-mails in an investigation of possible manipulation of power markets in California and the Midwest by J.P. Morgan Ventures Energy Corp. U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly directed JPMorgan to explain why the e-mails shouldn’t be turned over to investigators.

JPMorgan, based in New York, submitted copies of the e- mails to the court on July 13 so they can be examined by U.S. Magistrate Deborah Robinson, who is handling the dispute.

‘Advice of Counsel’

“Each of the e-mails relates to the advice of counsel with respect to the investigation -- not the adoption of the bidding practices under investigation,” Michele Roberts, a lawyer for JPMorgan, wrote in the bank’s filing. “The only possible use the commission could make of the e-mails would be to peer into the details of respondent’s legal strategy.”

FERC opened the probe in August after complaints from California and Midwest grid operators that JPMorgan’s bidding practices were abusive, according to the agency’s initial court filing.

Jennifer Zuccarelli, a JPMorgan spokeswoman, didn’t immediately comment on today’s filing because she hadn’t seen it yet. Mary O’Driscoll, a FERC spokeswoman, didn’t immediately respond to an e-mail message seeking comment on the filing.

The case is Federal Energy Regulatory Commission v. J.P. Morgan Ventures Energy Corp., 12-mc-352, U.S. District Court, District of Columbia (Washington).

To contact the reporter on this story: Tom Schoenberg in Washington at tschoenberg@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at mhytha@bloomberg.net.

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