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Too Big To Fail Megabank JPMorgan Chase is back on the government’s radar. The bank has been under investigation numerous times after taking a bailout during the 2008 financial crisis – most notably for the London Whale trade – and is now under scrutiny for its trading activities in the energy market. The accusation comes ahead of a likely legal settlement between JPMorgan and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

The nation’s top energy regulator on Monday formally accused JPMorgan Chase of manipulating energy markets, foreshadowing a multimillion-dollar settlement that is expected as early as this week, according to people briefed on the matter.

The action by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is largely a formality ahead of the settlement — a deal that is expected to help JPMorgan avert a clash over accusations that the bank orchestrated trading strategies to turn inefficient power plants into profit centers, the people said.

The questionable trading activity involved JPMorgan making allegedly fraudulent offers to state energy authorities. Excessive payments by those authorities led to higher energy prices.

To transform the power plants into profit generators, the agency contends, JPMorgan’s traders adopted eight different “schemes” from September 2010 to June 2011. Under the plan, the traders offered the electricity at prices that appeared falsely attractive to state energy authorities. The effort prompted authorities in California and Michigan to make excessive payments that helped drive up energy prices, the regulator said.

The fine for the illegal trading is expected to be, at most,  a measly $500 million – a parking ticket for a firm with $2.4 trillion in assets. If anything it will encourage more bad behavior.

Dan Wright

Dan Wright

Daniel Wright is a longtime blogger and currently writes for Shadowproof. He lives in New Jersey, by choice.