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Senators knock federal regulators for letting JPMorgan off the hook

July 31, 2013|By Michael Hiltzik
  • Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) has asked the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to justify its settlement with JPMorgan -- a $410-million penalty that includes no criminal referrals.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) has asked the Federal Energy Regulatory… (Chip Somodevilla / Getty…)

The egregiously light wrist-slap that federal regulators gave to JPMorgan Chase & Co. over its $125-million rip-off of California consumers has drawn the attention of Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass).

The first-term senator, who has already made a mark in Washington for her no-nonsense questioning of financial regulators, has asked the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to justify its settlement -- a $410-million penalty that includes no criminal referrals, even though FERC identified three energy traders and a top JPMorgan executive whose fingerprints were all over the scheme.

Warren raised her questions in a letter she issued to FERC Chairman Jon Wellinghoff, co-written with Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.).

Warren and Markey raise several issues I've discussed in my columns about JPMorgan's scam and this settlement. They point out that the $410 million is a tiny percentage of JPMorgan's profits. They ask why no action has been taken against the JPMorgan executives who perpetrated the scheme, or who interfered with FERC's investigation. I chronicled the latter behavior in a column last September, and explained the original scam in a column last July.

The senators also note that JPMorgan may have evaded FERC's most stringent enforcement action -- its six-month suspension of JPMorgan's electrical trading rights in California -- via another scam. I reported on that a week ago. 

Their bottom line: "Why was JPMorgan permitted to avoid an admission of guilt in this case?" Good question, and one that points to the real issue: What will it take for regulators to really lower the boom on criminal activity by corporations? Here's a starting point: Imposing financial penalties that have no impact on guilty executives has no deterrent effect. Kudos to Warren and Markey for pointing that out.

ALSO:

Ban JPMorgan from the electricity business

How JPMorgan interfered with federal regulators

Manipulation of California markets gives consumers a jolt

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