Only summary data for energy trades during 2001 has to be turned over to the defense team of an indicted former energy trader, a Houston judge ruled Tuesday. However, while the scope of a subpoena was limited, U.S. District Judge Nancy Atlas said she may expand the information request in the future.

“I think a year of summary information is relevant and appropriate,” she said in court. “Subpoenaing these matters from the press should be the last resort.” Although limiting the subpoena, she did not rule out that she may order more detailed information to be provided in the future. However, she said the defense team for former El Paso Corp. trader Todd Geiger first must attempt to get the information it needs from the companies that reported price data to the publication. Apparently, there are about a dozen companies involved.

Geiger’s attorneys had sought detailed information from Platts’ Inside FERC publication for 2001. Geiger was indicted in December for attempting to manipulate natural gas markets while he was a trader at El Paso (see Daily GPI, Dec. 5, 2002). Geiger was charged with two felonies: one count of wire fraud and one count of knowingly transmitting in interstate commerce false information on gas trades to the Platts publication.

Geiger apparently emailed the fabricated gas trades on Nov. 30, 2001 to Inside FERC for use in computing its Dec.1, 2001 index price. Geiger, who manned El Paso’s Canadian desk, alleged that the trades had been carried out by El Paso Merchant Energy Co. He has pleaded not guilty.

Geiger’s defense team had subpoenaed Platts to provide detailed price data information from a number of traders, but Platts attorney Kent Schaffer argued before Atlas that the publication’s information was proprietary and confidential. Although limiting the defense’s request, Atlas added that it was her judgment to “go one step at a time.”

Providing summary data information would not involve confidentiality issues, Schaffer told the court. According to Platts attorneys, the only data not available to defense attorneys that would be contained in summary data were the number of reported trades and the number of companies reporting during a specific period. Regardless, Schaffer told Dow Jones, Geiger’s defense team may not want the data it has requested.

“After they see the information, they’re not going to want it,” Schaffer told Dow Jones. “Their defense is that Mr. Geiger reported trades that Inside FERC should have recognized as being so far out of the normal that they wouldn’t use them. Actually, that’s not necessarily what the record shows.”

Prosecutors charge that Geiger apparently tried to manipulate natural gas prices. He allegedly reported 48 false trades to the Platts publication during 2001. However, Platts attorneys argued that its editors did not use the Geiger data because they were outside the publication’s observed range and also could not be verified.

“If traders are told how many trades are used in calculations, it makes it a lot easier for manipulation to occur,” Schaffer told Dow Jones after the hearing. “Right now, it’s basically a shot in the dark.”

In January, former Dynegy Marketing and Trade employee Michelle Marie Valencia also was indicted on four counts of wire fraud and three counts of knowingly reporting false trade reports to Inside FERC (see Daily GPI, Jan. 28). She and her attorney were in the Houston courtroom on Tuesday, but they had no comment.

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