FERC last Wednesday ordered a hearing to determine if a consultant and attorneys for bankrupt Enron should be barred from appearing and practicing before the agency for allegedly withholding information during a 2001 proceeding involving refunds to Pacific Northwest power customers.

“The allegations that persons may have withheld materially significant data on Enron transactions in contravention of the 2001 data orders is a serious charge that warrants further consideration. We cannot, however, determine on the existing record whether any violation of our rules occurred and we therefore order that further proceedings be held,” the order said [EL03-180, EL03-154, et al].

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission referred the matter to Chief Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) Curtis Wagner to decide whether the consultant and Enron attorneys “engaged in unethical or improper conduct sufficient to warrant disqualification.”

The order specifically cites Jan Paul Acton of Charles River Associates (CRA), a consultant who assisted Enron in the 2001 Pacific Northwest refund proceeding (see related story). Enron noted that Acton was not a witness in the case, but served as a nontestifying economic consultant.

As for the attorneys in the Pacific Northwest case, Enron said they included Bracewell & Patterson LLP (now known as Bracewell & Giuliani LLP). The law firm was assisted by Brobeck, Phleger & Harrison, which Enron said no longer exists. And the firm of Gibbs & Brun also worked on a portion of the FERC proceeding, it noted.

Washington, DC-based LaBoeuf, Lamb, Greene & MacRae LLP is Enron’s main counsel in a current proceeding before FERC, but it was not involved in the 2001 proceeding, according to Enron.

In March, ALJ Carmen A. Cintron certified the question to the full Commission of whether a hearing should be held to determine if Acton, CRA and Enron’s attorneys should be suspended from appearing and practicing before FERC.

Cintron raised the issue after Acton, under cross-examination in a current proceeding, provided testimony that “calls into question the completeness of the data submitted to the Commission in the 2001 Pacific Northwest proceeding,” the order said.

The ALJ urged FERC to “send a signal to parties and others that the Commission will not allow lack of candor, misrepresentations or willful misconduct in its proceedings.”

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