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FERC, Barclays to Settle Lawsuit Over $453M Penalty for Market Manipulation

After a four-year battle in a California federal court, FERC and Barclays Bank plc appear poised to settle a lawsuit over a $453 million penalty levied against the bank and four of its traders for alleged energy market manipulations between 2006 and 2008.

According to court records in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California in Sacramento, settlement conferences were held last Wednesday and Thursday before Magistrate Judge Kendall Newman in the case Federal Energy Regulatory Commission v. Barclays Bank plc et al, No. 2:13-cv-2093-TLN. The records also show that a minute order was held Wednesday.

Although details over a possible settlement were not available, the court said "parties made substantial progress toward a settlement," and vacated all pending dates in the case. The parties were ordered to file status reports and/or dismissal documents within 45 days.

In July 2013, FERC said Barclays and traders Daniel Brin, Scott Connelly, Karen Levine and Ryan Smith manipulated electric power prices in California and other western markets between November 2006 and December 2008. The Commission levied $453 million in civil penalties, the largest in its history, and ordered the bank and traders to disgorge $34.9 million, plus interest, in unjust profits.

FERC filed a petition with the court demanding a jury trial in October 2013. Five months later, Barclays ended trading in electricity markets. The UK banking giant confirmed in April 2014 that it planned to exit the majority of its global commodities business, but would continue to trade precious metals and derivatives tied to the price of oil and natural gas.

District Judge Troy Nunley, the presiding judge, last April, ruled against FERC's motion to affirm the longstanding penalties.

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