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Total has not escaped gas market manipulation charges, FERC staff argues

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Total has not escaped gas market manipulation charges, FERC staff argues

FERC Office of Enforcement staff is confident in its naturalgas market manipulation case against TotalSA and affiliates and asked the commission to let them move forwardwith prosecution.

Countering strongprotests by Total's legal team, who objected to the marketmanipulation charges and potential civil penalties of almost $217 million,Office of Enforcement staff said the company's claims do not prevent the commissionfrom hearing the matter.

"While respondents' factual arguments present theirview of the evidence, they do not, as a threshold matter of law, rebut thealleged violation," FERC Office of Enforcement staff wrote.

"Instead, they largely mischaracterize enforcementstaff's allegations, make inaccurate and unsubstantiated representations, and,at best, merely raise disputed issues of material fact," staff said.

Similarly, the Total companies' legal arguments andchallenges to FERC authority do not undo the enforcement charges or prevent thecommission from hearing the matter, the staff said.

Among other requests in the Sept. 23 reply filed withFERC, the staff asked the commission to rule that each trade under amanipulative scheme is a separate violation; that open-market transactions madewith the intent to manipulate the market violate the commission'santi-manipulation rule; that the companies had fair notice that their actionsmanipulating index prices violated the Natural Gas Act and anti-manipulationrule; that two Total employees be kept in the case. The staff recommended thatFERC refer the matter to an administrative law judge for a hearing on thedisputed issues.

In a July 12 challenge to the charges, attorneys forTotal, Total Gas & Power Ltd., TotalGas & Power North America Inc., and traders Aaron Hall andTherese Tran said FERC staff had not presented "a single piece ofdocumentary evidence showing that the respondents intended to manipulate any market."They described "multiple infirmities" in the case.

In April, FERC askedthe Total entities and employees to prove why they should not be held liablefor almost $217 million in civil penalties and forced to disgorge unjustprofits of more than $9 million for the alleged manipulation of gas prices.(IN12-17)