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Industry News

Reliant Resources Says Trades Were Fake

LCG, May 14, 2002--The power producer and trader Reliant Resources Inc. (RRI) announced yesterday that it had increased the volume of its electricity trading through artificial transactions with other companies over three years.

The trades, which involved reciprocal sales of energy between Reliant and other parties, such as CMS Energy, in Dearborn, Michigan, may have inflated power prices by creating the appearance of a fluid market. Last year, twenty percent of RRI's trades were said by the company to have been transacted purely to increase the appearance of volume. The reaction to the news by industry analysts and energy companies is such that the practice appears to have been common knowledge. Last week, Dynegy revealed that it had been involved in what it termed "in-and-out" trades with CMS Energy, prompting further losses in Dynegy's stock price.

The trades conducted by both companies could have brought them more trading partners through online trading systems, but according to Thomas J. Erickson, a commissioner with the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, "there's nothing illegal per se. And they're not inherently bad things." Gordon Howard, an analyst with Credit Lyonnais in New York, said, "if a company is long power and power costs $50 a megawatt, and it does a trade for $53, then it increases the price out there. The concern is that you can take it to that next level. Can you take trades like this and make a case that these companies manipulated the market?"

Compared with the daily trading volumes for energy seen one year ago, this year's trade volumes through May 10 are up 40 percent.
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