Enforcement Defense
Subscribe to Enforcement Defense's Posts

How Energy Company Buyers Can Limit Environmental Liability Risk

Many energy companies may be driven into bankruptcy because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Third parties seeking to purchase those companies’ assets may be concerned about potential successor liability for the seller’s environmental obligations. This article highlights some steps that asset purchasers in bankruptcy can take to reduce the risk of such liability. Successor liability exists under each of the major federal environmental laws. Four especially important statutes for energy companies are the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act, or CERCLA, the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, the Clean Water Act and the Clean Air Act. Access the full article.

Continue Reading

Department of Justice Launches an Antitrust Investigation into Pressure Pumping Services Used in Hydraulic Fracturing

by Nicole Castle On July 24, 2013, Baker Hughes, Inc., the owner of the third-largest pressure pumping fleet in the United States, disclosed as part of its filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission that it had received a civil investigative demand (CID) from the Department of Justice (DOJ) on May 30, 2013.  The CID requests information and documents relating to U.S. pressure pumping services for the period from May 29, 2011, through May 30, 2013.   Baker Hughes stated in its filing that it was “not able to predict what action, if any, might be taken in the future by the DOJ or other governmental authorities as a result of the investigation.” Pressure pumping services generally refers to the process of pumping water and other materials into a well to break apart rock formations and increase the well’s oil or gas production.   Pressure pumping is the main step in the hydraulic fracturing process, and has in recent years...

Continue Reading

FERC Imposes Whopping Penalty Against Bank and Traders for Allegedly Manipulating Western Power Prices

by Dan Watkiss In a July 16 order, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) assessed civil penalties of $453 million against a British banking conglomerate (BCL) and four of its power traders for manipulating western electricity markets from from November 2006 to December 2008 in violation of the Federal Power Act (FPA) and Commission regulation 1c.2.  The bank has 30 days to pay its $435 million penalty and disgorge $34.9 million in profits plus interest from its manipulative trades; likewise, the traders have 30 days to pay penalties ranging from $1 million to $15 million each.  The bank announced that it will not pay and instead will contest the finding of market manipulation in federal court.  The penalties are among the highest FERC has ever assessed under the authority Congress conferred on it in 2005 to police market manipulation. FERC’s Office of Enforcement launched its investigation of BCL in July 2007, culminating in an...

Continue Reading

On Heels of European Raids, Energy Companies Face U.S. Class Actions

by Megan Morley White Oaks Fund LP, an Illinois private placement fund, filed a class action suit last week against BP PLC, Royal Dutch Shell PLC and Statoil ASA in the Southern District of New York.  White Oaks Fund v. BP PLC, et al., case number 1:13-cv-04553.  The complaint alleges that the energy companies colluded to distort the price of crude oil by supplying false pricing information to Platts, a publisher of benchmark prices in the energy industry, in violation of the Sherman and Commodity Exchange Acts.  Plaintiffs claim that defendant companies are sophisticated market participants who knew that the incorrect information they provided to Platts would impact crude oil futures and derivative contracts prices traded in the U.S. This action follows at least six civil litigations that have been filed against BP, Shell and Statoil after the European Commission (EC) and Norwegian Competition Authority raided the companies in...

Continue Reading

Energy Sector A Target – China’s Antitrust Enforcement Agencies to Take Action Against International Cartels

by Frank Schoneveld In the last six months, China's antitrust enforcement agencies have signed five Memorandums of Cooperation with antitrust authorities in the United States, European Union, South Korea, Australia and Brazil. During this same period, Chinese antitrust enforcement agencies have substantially increased their personnel resources.  So far, in 2012 more than 10 cartel investigations have been opened by China’s antitrust enforcement agencies, resulting in fines of millions of dollars in four cases in the last four months alone.  (In the previous three years there had been only three cartel cases with total reported fines of less than US$1 million). Why all of this activity?  The implications seem clear, and it is not just a matter of reading the tea leaves (so to speak): the Chinese antitrust enforcement agencies are clearly gearing up to implement an even more aggressive enforcement agenda that will now include international...

Continue Reading

Very Strict Liability for False or Materially Incomplete Representations: Forfeiture of FERC Market Pricing Authority

by Dan Watkiss and William Friedman “No showing of the respondent’s intent or mindset is necessary to show a violation of [18 CFR § 35.41(b)] has occurred,” explained a divided (4-1) Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) last week in an order suspending for six-months the authority of J.P. Morgan Ventures Energy (JPM) to sell power at market-based rates (MBR).  FERC did so based on its findings that JPM had submitted inaccurate information and omitted material information in three filings with the Commission. Ironically, the section 35.41(b) violation that cost JPM its MBR authority arose in connection with JPM’s alleged resistance to discovery, and not in connection with the underlying California ISO referral to FERC enforcement staff of suspicions that JPM may have manipulated the California power markets. This decision should serve as a cautionary tale: Liability for misrepresentations to FERC or its...

Continue Reading

Alleged Agreement to Suppress Prices for Mineral Rights Highlights the Antitrust Risk Facing Energy Companies

by Jon B. Dubrow and Shauna A. Barnes Recently published reports of land acquisition activities between Chesapeake Energy and EnCana senior executives will likely expose those companies to a Department of Justice (DOJ) antitrust investigation and challenge, as well as, if accurate, civil antitrust claims.  This matter highlights the risks that energy companies face when discussing lease arrangements with their competitors.  In February 2012, DOJ settled its first challenge to a bidding agreement for mineral rights, alleging that agreements between Gunneson Energy Corporation and SGI Interests to bid jointly for government mineral leases were anticompetitive.  In a previous post, we explained the potential issues and pitfalls related to joint bidding for oil and gas properties.  We suggested various factors that companies can use to assess, or manage, their antitrust exposure.  On June 25, 2012, Reuters published a special report...

Continue Reading

FERC Conditionally Accepts New Enforcement Mechanism for Electric Reliability Standards

by Elizabeth P. Philpott The U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) recently approved with conditions the North American Electric Reliability Corporation’s (NERC) petition proposing the use of the “Find, Fix, Track and Report” (FFT) to report possible lesser-risk violations of Reliability Standards.  FERC determined that the FFT initiative would more efficiently process lesser-risk violations and promote reliability because it streamlines the manner NERC reports minor violations and allows NERC to focus its resources on issues that pose more serious risks to reliability. NERC’s petition proposed three tracks to address possible violations: (1) a Notice of Penalty; (2) an FFT information filing; or (3) a Dismissal. Unlike a Notice of Penalty, which deals with moderate to substantial reliability risks and can result in fines, the FFT process uses informational filings to report possible lesser-risk violations,...

Continue Reading

Welcome to McDermott’s Energy Business Law Blog

Welcome to McDermott’s Energy Business Law Blog.  Our objective in this forum is to provide our readers with insights into the evolving regulatory, business, tax and legal issues affecting the U.S. and international energy and commodities markets.  Contributions to this blog will be a collective effort of lawyers and professional staff that are part of McDermott's broad-based energy practice, with ten U.S. and seven European offices, and a strategic alliance in China.  We will bring to bear our experience across the global energy sector, which spans exploration and production, oil, gas and refined products pipelines, storage and processing facilities, liquefied natural gas, refining and petrochemicals, electric power generation and transmission, renewable and alternative energy (including wind, solar, biofuels and others), trading and regulatory, carbon and emissions, metals and agriculture.  We hope you find our energy blog to...

Continue Reading

FERC Enforcement Priorities Unchanged for 2012

by Elizabeth Philpott Fraud and market manipulation, serious violations of the reliability standards, anticompetitive conduct, and conduct that threatens the transparency of regulated markets will continue to be the focus of FERC investigations and enforcement actions in 2012 according to the 2011 Annual Report on Enforcement. The 2011 Report, issued November 17, 2011, describes the agency’s efforts in fiscal year (FY) 2011 to make its investigations more transparent through public notices of alleged violations and consistent implementation of penalty guidelines in settlements and adjudications. The Enforcement Office (the Office) received 107 self-reports in FY 2011, up from 93 in FY 2010.  In its 2010 Report the Office predicted that the leniency afforded to self reporters by the penalty guidelines would drive this increase.  Enforcement staff closed 54 self-reports in 2011 after an initial review; 53 self-reports remain open.  These...

Continue Reading

STAY CONNECTED

TOPICS

ARCHIVES