On November 15, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC) Office of Enforcement issued their 12th annual report on enforcement. As in previous years, the Office of Enforcement will maintain its focus on the threats “posed by fraud and market manipulation in wholesale energy markets” in order to ensure that this kind of conduct does “not undermine FERC’s goal of ensuring efficient energy services at reasonable cost or erode confidence in those markets to the detriment of consumers and competitors.”
The report highlights FERC’s focus on fraud and market manipulation, conduct that threatens the regulated markets transparency, serious violations of mandatory Reliability Standards, and anticompetitive conduct. The Report follows the trend from previous years, of providing the public with information about “the nature of non-public enforcement activities,” like surveillance inquiries, self-reported violations, and investigations that had been closed without enforcement action in the public.
During the presentation about the Report, FERC was informed that “the Report summarizes audits, market reports, litigation filings, and settlements which were approved by the Commission.” The Office of Enforcement said that the summaries are available to help any companies that are seeking to comply with FERC’s orders and regulations. The individuals and companies whose conduct was reviewed in this report were not identified in order to maintain confidentiality.
During the 2018 Fiscal Year, FERC approved six different settlements between Enforcement and subjects in order to resolve different matters. These settlements totaled about $83 million in civil penalties and $66 million in disgorgement. More information on this was included in the Report.
Some of the highlights of Enforcement Report include:
- “Investigations staff opened 24 new investigations and closed 23 pending investigations with no action. Additionally, staff negotiated six settlements that resulted in more than $83 million in civil penalties and disgorgement of more than $66 million in unjust profits. These Commission-approved settlements included provisions requiring the subjects to enhance their compliance programs and periodically report back to Enforcement regarding the results of those enhancements.
- Audits and Accounting staff completed 14 audits of oil pipelines, electric utilities and natural gas companies, resulting in 209 recommendations for corrective action and directing refunds and recoveries totaling more than $185 million. Additionally, DAA advised and acted on 435 proceedings at the Commission covering various accounting matters with cost-of-service rate implications.
- Market Oversight staff continued its analysis of market fundamentals, and enhanced its capabilities for identifying anticompetitive market outcomes and anomalies that may indicate an exercise of market power. Market Oversight published its 2017 State of the Markets Report and Seasonal Assessment reports. It also held two Electric Quarterly Report user group meetings to discuss potential system improvements and enhancements.
- Analytics and Surveillance staff reviewed numerous instances of potential misconduct and provided analytical expertise to Investigations staff in approximately 50 investigations. Natural gas surveillance screens produced approximately 7,719 alerts. Each month Analytics and Surveillance staff ran and reviewed 84 electric surveillance screens, hourly and intra-hour sub-screens, and reports for more than 36,000 hubs and pricing nodes within six regional transmission owner and independent system operator regions.”