New York, NY—April 26, 2016 — National law firm Robins Kaplan LLP® announced today that it has been named Co-Lead Counsel, along with three other law firms, in an antitrust and commodities manipulation class action against Total Gas & Power North America, Inc. (TGPNA). The class action lawsuit stems from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC) preliminary determination on September 21, 2015 that TGPNA, along with its traders and supervisors, manipulated the prices of natural gas in the southwest United States between June 2009 and June 2012.
Subsequently, the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission also issued an order finding that TGPNA and one of its traders attempted to manipulate natural gas futures prices by manipulating the monthly index settlement prices of natural gas at major trading hubs in the southwest United States in violation of the Commodity Exchange Act—and imposed a $3.6 million civil penalty upon them.
Plaintiffs, who include persons and entities who purchased physical natural gas as well as natural gas futures and other derivative natural gas contracts ("NG Contracts"), allege that TGPNA effectuated its manipulative scheme by buying or selling large volumes of fixed-price natural gas at major trading hubs before and during bid-week (i.e., the last five business days in a month) to benefit its related financial positions in NG Contracts. Plaintiffs allege that although TGPNA had no material customers, physical assets, or transportation available near these hubs, and thus did not have any legitimate business need to engage in these transactions, its fixed-price trading during certain bid-weeks accounted for a substantial percentage of the total market by volume at these hubs. By reporting these uneconomic transactions to natural gas index publishers, TGPNA, according to the Plaintiffs’ allegations, moved these indices in a direction which benefited its financial position in NG Contracts.
"Our clients allege that by monopolizing the fixed-price natural gas market at major trading hubs, TGPNA’s largely uneconomic trades were designed to, and did, affect the monthly index settlement prices in a direction that would benefit TGPNA’s financial positions in NG Contracts, including natural gas futures contracts, basis swaps, and index swaps," said Kellie Lerner, partner at Robins Kaplan. "Consequently, our clients allege that, as a result of TGPNA’s allegedly unlawful manipulative and anticompetitive conduct, other natural gas market participants traded NG Contracts at artificial prices."
Robins Kaplan partner Hollis Salzman, as well as of counsel Bernard Persky and associate David Kurlander, are representing the plaintiffs.
The case is Anastasio v. Total Gas & Power North America, Inc. et al. It is pending in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York before Judge John G. Koeltl.