California Power Trader Fined $2.4 Million for Market Rigging

U.S. energy regulators fined trading firm Etracom LLC $2.4 million for engaging in a scheme to rig the California power market.

Etracom, a trading company formed in 2008, violated anti-manipulation rules in May 2011 when traders artificially drove down power prices at a point on the grid in eastern central California to reap profits, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission said in an order issued Friday. The agency also directed Etracom to surrender $315,072 in unjust profits.

"Etracom’s manipulative scheme operated as a fraud and deceit on other market participants and on" the grid manager, known as the California Independent System Operator Corp., FERC said. “In light of the seriousness of these violations, we find that it is appropriate to assess civil penalties."

Etracom is the latest trading firm to be swept up in the commission’s crackdown on manipulation. The agency proposed civil penalties of $213.6 million against a unit of Total SA in April amid allegations that two of its traders rigged natural gas markets, a claim the company denies.

Efforts to reach Etracom for comment were unsuccessful.

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