What do independent experts think?
Twelve independent experts reviewed the allegations. The video above describes the background of the investigation and the five videos below profile specific experts. Position papers from the twelve experts are found elsewhere on this site.
FERC alleges Powhatan Energy Fund committed market manipulation. We take their allegations very seriously. However, we are rule followers who take compliance more seriously. We have spent much time, energy and resources preparing our legal arguments. We believe in them.
Powhatan launched this site because we didn’t want to wait more than a decade (!!!) to tell our side of the story—we want the public to know the full story now. Without it, it is impossible to fairly evaluate FERC’s allegations.
Powhatan has about ten investors. These individuals have reputations that are important to them. They are concerned that FERC’s accusations will unfairly harm their relationships with family that they love, friends who enrich their lives, and business acquaintances who are vital to their livelihoods. They communicate with these people at little league baseball games, in their neighborhoods, on their social media networks, while at work and elsewhere. They do not want to carry the stigma of unfounded accusations on their shoulders.
This site’s primary purpose is to share the legal documents that FERC’s Office of Enforcement and Powhatan have prepared and exchanged. Since we know the typical person may not want to go through hundreds of pages of legalese, the site also offers the opinions of a dozen independent academic and practitioner experts who have reviewed the legal documents. Their position statements are relatively short. The FERC’s Office of Enforcement was given three of the experts’ affidavits when the investigation was private. The other nine position papers were obtained when Powhatan learned that FERC might take the case public. These nine expert opinion papers could not be delivered to the FERC’s Office of Enforcement in our response to its preliminary findings since we were given only 60 days to respond. Instead, these nine affidavits were delivered to FERC on September 24, 2014 in Powhatan’s 1b.19 response.
There is a lot of complicated information on this site. Here, we try to help you understand what’s being discussed.
City Power: A small business that did similar trades to the ones Alan Chen executed on behalf of Powhatan. FERC also accused it of market manipulation. The firm settled with the FERC. It is unaffiliated with Powhatan, Oceanside Power, and Coaltrain Energy.
Coaltrain Energy: A small business that did similar trades to the ones Alan Chen executed on behalf of Powhatan. FERC also accused it of market manipulation and the case resides in a district court. It is unaffiliated with Powhatan, Oceanside Power, and City Power.
Due Process: The Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution requires, in part, that laws give the person of ordinary intelligence a reasonable opportunity to know what is prohibited. It incorporates notions of fair notice or warning and requires legislatures to set reasonably clear guidelines for law enforcement officials and triers of fact in order to prevent arbitrary and discriminatory enforcement.
FERC: Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. The FERC is an independent agency that regulates the interstate transmission of electricity, natural gas and oil. It is part of the United States Department of Energy. The Commission is overseen by five commissioners who are appointed by the President of the United States with the advice of the United States Senate. Also known as “Commission.”
MLSA: Marginal Loss Surplus Allocation. This is the disbursement of over-collected transmission line losses. Also known as a “TLC.”
Monkeys throwing darts: A somewhat casual way of saying or implying the word “random” or concept of “randomization.”
Oceanside Power, LLC: A small business that did similar trades to the ones Alan Chen executed on behalf of Powhatan. FERC also accused it of market manipulation. Oceanside Power settled with the FERC for these allegations. It is unaffiliated with Powhatan, Coaltrain Energy, and City Power.
Orwellian: An adjective describing the situation, idea, or societal condition that George Orwell identified as being destructive to the welfare of a free and open society. It denotes an attitude and a brutal policy of draconian control by propaganda, surveillance, misinformation, denial of truth, and manipulation of the past.
PJM: PJM Interconnection LLC. It is a Regional Transmission Organization that coordinates the movement of wholesale electricity in the electrical grid serving all or parts of 13 states in the Northeast and the Midwest. PJM is one of seven federally regulated transmission organizations and is based in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania.
Powhatan Energy Fund LLC: A small business that invested in the same markets as Oceanside Power, Coaltrain Energy, and City Power. When it was accused of market manipulation, it launched this website. Also known as “Powhatan.”
Prosecutorial misconduct: It’s an illegal act or failing to act, on the part of a prosecutor. Bar organizations are supposed to hold prosecutors accountable when they commit it, but rarely do so.
Scienter: The United States Supreme Court defines scienter as a mental state embracing intent to deceive, manipulate or defraud.
Spread trade: A generic term for a type of trading strategy commonly used by traders in securities, commodities, and derivative securities markets and widely recognized by regulators as a legitimate trading strategy.
TLC: Transmission Loss Credit. This is the disbursement of over-collected transmission line losses. Also known as an “MLSA.”
Transparency: It is something that is honest, open, and not secretive. FERC’s Office of Enforcement has stated that they would like this characteristic to define the markets they regulate. This is one area of agreement Powhatan has with FERC and is the reason for this site.
Wash-like trades: We are not sure. You better ask FERC OE what it means.
Wash Sale: A transaction involving no change in beneficial ownership.
Backfield, Samuel: He is an attorney with the FERC Office of Enforcement who worked alongside Steve Tabackman and Daniel Lloyd. He withdrew from the case in November 2019. Currently, he works on the staff of a FERC Commissioner.
Bay, Norman: Dubbed “Harry Reid’s Personal Prosecutor” by the Wall Street Journal, he was the Director of Enforcement at FERC who oversaw the investigation of Powhatan. On July 15, 2014, he was confirmed by the Senate with a 52-45 vote to be a FERC Commissioner. According to RTO Insider, his last act as the Director of Enforcement at FERC was to charge Powhatan with market manipulation. He resigned prematurely as a Commissioner on February 3, 2017 leaving the FERC without a quorum of Commissioners. He then entered private practice. Mr. Bay also received an appointment at The Duke University Energy Initiative and Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions and an advisory board position at Dartmouth’s Arthur L. Irving Institute for Energy & Society.
Bowring, Joe: His firm, Monitoring Analytics LLC, is the Independent Market Monitor for the PJM markets. He was appointed by PJM and approved by the FERC. He and his firm are responsible for monitoring compliance with the rules, standards, procedures and practices of the PJM markets. A recording of a very interesting phone call Mr. Bowring had with Coaltrain has been referenced in this case. Despite all these things, Mr. Bowring doesn’t think he or his colleague should be deposed.
Brint, Juliana: She is an attorney at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP who represents Alan Chen, HEEP Fund, and CU Fund.
Canizares, Elizabeth: She was an attorney with the FERC Office of Enforcement who worked alongside Steve Tabackman and Sam Backfield. In November 2019, she left FERC to work for the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Chen, Alan: He was an independent manager who Powhatan hired to advise and manage the fund. He obtained a Ph.D. in engineering in China in 1995 and moved to the United States to seek a better life for him and his family. In the following decade, he gained experience and developed knowledge about the electrical grid in the United States, with a particular expertise in the PJM market. Chen settled with FERC in November 2021, more than 11 years after the investigation was initiated, which was before he was able to depose any witnesses.
Danly, James: He was an attorney at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP who has represented Alan Chen, HEEP Fund, and CU Fund. He then became general counsel and Chairman of FERC. He’s now a Commissioner of FERC.
Estes, John: He is an attorney at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP who represents Alan Chen, HEEP Fund, and CU Fund.
Gasteiger, Larry: From August 2009 to August 2014, he was the Deputy Director of the Office of Enforcement and served under Mr. Norman Bay. When Mr. Bay become a Commissioner, he served as his Chief of Staff. After this site was made public, Mr. Gasteiger seemed to defend FERC’s Enforcement practices when he said “As we know transparency can be generally a good thing. Unless you’re the subject of the transparency and then it becomes an issue.” In 2016, Gasteiger left the Commission to join PSEG, a utility company. He subsequently left PSEG to work for WIRES.
Gates, Kevin and Rich: They are both officers of Powhatan Energy Fund LLC’s managing member. They are identical twins who obtained their Eagle Scout awards in 1986.
Hagan, Daniel: He is an attorney at White & Case who represented Powhatan near the onset of this investigation. Powhatan saved notes, invoices, and/or communications related to his work.
Lloyd, Daniel: He is an attorney with the FERC Office of Enforcement.
Marcus, Jonathan: He is an attorney at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP who represents Alan Chen, HEEP Fund, and CU Fund.
McSwain, William: He was an attorney at Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP who represented Powhatan Energy Fund LLC until 2018 when he became the U.S. Attorney of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. He now works at Duane Morris.
Minzner, Max: He was FERC’s general counsel under Norman Bay. After this site was public and received national media attention, he authored this post that supported FERC’s Enforcement practices. In January 2017, Norman Bay presented Mr. Minzner with a Chairman’s Medal. He eventually left the Commission and joined private practice.
Olson, Tom: He is an attorney at FERC who has been involved in this case. Although it’s believed he no longer has a LinkedIn profile, he once used that social media site to describe himself as “tireless defender of the nation’s energy systems.”
Owens, James: He is an attorney with the FERC Office of Enforcement who worked alongside Steve Tabackman. He left FERC in January 2017. During Trump’s administration, he worked at the Department of Transportation.
Owings, Lisa: She is an attorney with the FERC Office of Enforcement. She works alongside Steve Tabackman and Daniel Lloyd. In the summer of 2021, she left FERC. It is believed she currently works for Zoom.
Parkinson, Larry: He is an attorney who worked in the Office of Enforcement when Norman Bay was its director. When Mr. Bay became Chairman, he promoted Parkinson to become Director of Enforcement. He left FERC unceremoniously in early 2021.
Rosenblatt, Lauren: She was an attorney with the FERC Office of Enforcement. Steve Tabackman reported to her. Around September 2014, she left the FERC to work as an attorney at NV Energy, a firm based in former Senator Harry Reid’s State of Nevada. She’s since left that job and has moved on to several others.
Slocum, Tyson: He is a Director of Public Citizen. On April 11, 2014, he said Powhatan was “disgraced.”
Tabackman, Steve: He is the attorney who led the investigation of Powhatan for the FERC’s Office of Enforcement. In 2014, Pulitzer Prize-winning Joseph Rago mentioned Mr. Tabackman in his WSJ Op Ed titled ‘Investors at War with Political Power.’ In 2012, Mr. Tabackman fell asleep in a deposition when the investigation into Powhatan’s trading activity was not public. In October 2021, he withdrew from our case on the same day it became public that he sent an emails to Tom Olson via GMail (!!!) that, in part, said “But you never heard that here”
Powhatan Energy Fund LLC is a private investment partnership. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s Office of Enforcement alleges that Powhatan and a trader the fund contracted manipulated the energy market. Powhatan strongly disagrees. We feel forced to share the full details of their investigation alongside independent analysis of the charges.
* Powhatan gave the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) three expert affidavits when the investigation was private. Craig Pirrong Ph.D., Richard Wallace Esq., and Richard Tabors Ph.D. wrote these affidavits. We obtained the other nine position statements when we learned the FERC may make the case public. These nine expert opinions were delivered to FERC on September 24, 2014 in conjunction with Powhatan’s 1b.19 response. The views expressed by the experts are their own. They do not speak on behalf of anyone else. The experts were compensated by either Powhatan or Heep Fund for their work.