The Whistleblower #22
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The Whistleblower

The Whistleblower #22 - May 01, 2002

Who says only electric companies manipulate the energy markets? Not us. Not only did we identify electricity market manipulation in a March 2001 report one year before state agencies told the US Senate of such manipulation, FTCR issued a study on the manipulation of gas prices by oil companies in October of 2000. This week the US Senate issued a major report finding that "In a number of instances, refiners have sought to increase prices by reducing supplies." This mirrors the assessment of our report -- "The Causes and Effects of the Price Spike in the Midwest during 2000," which is available at One reason that oil companies have continued to get away with this behavior, and why electricity companies have yet to be prosecuted for their role in creating the California energy crisis is that anti-collusion laws must be strengthened to ensure that corporations and industries will be held accountable when they gouge consumers. FTCR's gas manipulation report recommendations include:

- close loopholes in antitrust laws and commodity trading laws to provide for prosecution of individuals and corporations involved in the creation of price spikes;

- establish a single nationwide standard for gasoline formulations so oil companies can no longer manipulate inventories in a manner that creates price spikes; and

- impose limitations on the flow of crude and refined product exports out of the United States to insure the multinational oil companies do not abuse the interests of this nation and its citizens.

There's got to be a better place for whistleblowers to turn. When corporations break the law, there are always people in the company who don't like what they see. These employees want to speak out against their employers' abuses. But the price is high for going public with reports of wrongdoing, so rather than risk sacrificing their careers, these individuals keep their information to themselves. A recent study by professors at Central Michigan Univ., describes how apparent Enron insiders revealed information about that company's deceptive accounting practices through anonymous postings to a Yahoo! Message board. As far back as 1999, insiders were predicting the company's demise and criminal prosecutions of the executives, resulting from hidden debts and complex layers of partnerships. These would-be whistleblowers provided early warnings that Enron was a house of cards waiting to collapse, and that the company's leaders were culpable. But their prescient information hung uselessly in the internet ether, while the fraud continued. Lawmakers must enact whistleblower protections so employees with a conscience aren't stuck reporting corporate fraud in internet chat rooms.

PUC in Wonderland: First the verdict and then the trial. The California Public Utilities Commission decided to allow public comments on its PG&E bailout proposal (see WB #18), after FTCR sued to stop the PUC from developing illegal bailout plans behind closed doors. But the PUC has already submitted its plan to the US Bankruptcy Court overseeing PG&E, and the public process is merely a sham meant to mollify public outrage at the PUC's behavior. In other words, the PUC's plan, which was crafted in secret without any public input whatsoever, is a done deal, and the right of the public to participate, a fairytale.

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