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JPMorgan Can’t Justify Withholding E-Mails, U.S. Says

JPMorgan Chase & Co. must disclose 25 e-mails sought in an energy-market manipulation probe, the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission told a judge, arguing there is no evidence they contain privileged legal advice.

JPMorgan made similar attorney-client privilege claims for 28 other e-mails that were later turned over to regulators, the U.S. said in court papers. Some of the earlier messages 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 today in Washington federal court.

The FERC sued New York-based JPMorgan July 2 to release the e-mails as part of 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 the bank to explain why the e-mails shouldn’t be turned over to investigators. JPMorgan submitted copies of the e-mails to the court on July 13 so they could be examined by U.S. Magistrate Judge 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.”

The 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 spokeswoman for JPMorgan, declined to immediately comment on today’s filing. Craig Cano, a FERC spokesman, declined to 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).

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