Two ex-El Paso Corp. natural gas traders formally pleaded guilty last week in a Houston courtroom to reporting false prices to an industry publication. Under an agreement with prosecutors, Donald Guilbault, 51, and William Ham, 45, both pleaded guilty to one criminal count of false price reporting.

The two, who appeared separately last Tuesday before U.S. District Judge Kenneth Hoyt, agreed to plead guilty earlier this month and cooperate in the ongoing investigation over price manipulation in the gas market. Earlier this month, Dallas Dean, another former trader, pleaded guilty and also is cooperating with authorities (see NGI, Oct. 18). A fourth ex-trader, Christopher Bakkenist, is also expected to cooperate after pleading guilty.

All four men, who had worked for El Paso’s merchant energy unit, were charged with reporting bogus trades to Platts’ Inside FERC in July 2000. The four individuals received letters in August from the office of U.S. Attorney Michael Shelby informing them that they were targets of the investigation into false reporting of natural gas trading data. Several other former El Paso traders apparently also received letters, but they have not been charged.

The government’s case is similar to one against Todd Geiger, a former El Paso trader, who also was accused of providing false information on gas trades. He pleaded guilty last December and is cooperating with authorities pending his sentencing (see NGI, Dec. 15, 2003).

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