Thursday, February 21, 2019

PJM Board Investigating GreenHat’s Record FTR Default

By Rory D. Sweeney

PJM’s Board of Managers said Tuesday it will conduct an “independent review” into GreenHat Energy’s massive default in the RTO’s financial transmission rights market.

The investigation comes amid pressure from PJM members for answers regarding the June default, which — with losses expected to exceed $100 million — is likely to be the RTO’s largest ever. (See PJM Reeling from Major FTR Default.) The board said it will throw open its books in response.

GreenHat listed its address as 826 Orange Ave., Suite 565, Coronado, Calif. — a UPS store between a nail salon and a RiteAid. | Google

“Examiners will have complete access to PJM records and staff for interviews and documentation review,” according to a news release.

The default highlighted flaws in the FTR market that allowed GreenHat traders, who had already been linked to a 2013 energy-market scandal, to amass the largest-ever portfolio of positions — 890 million MWh — on $600,000 in collateral. PJM has since identified “lessons learned” following a workshop staff conducted with independent experts and addressed many of the gaps through stakeholder-endorsed rule revisions, but member questions still remain. (See Doubling Down – with Other People’s Money.)

PJM analysis shows the continuing downward trajectory of GreenHat’s FTR portfolio. | PJM

The board has formed a special committee, chaired by board member Susan Riley, that also includes members John McNeely Foster and Mark Takahashi, along with “independent third-party experts.” Among the experts are Robert Anderson, executive director of the independent nonprofit Committee of Chief Risk Officers, and Neal Wolkoff, CEO of Wolkoff Consulting Services. Wolkoff was previously chairman and CEO of the American Stock Exchange and chief operating officer of the New York Mercantile Exchange. The Philadelphia firm of Schnader Harrison Segal & Lewis LLP has been retained as counsel.

The committee promises to answer outstanding questions about the default and highlights four goals:

  • examine the facts and circumstances associated with GreenHat’s participation in the FTR market and its subsequent default
  • assess PJM’s actions in connection with GreenHat
  • review lessons learned and make recommendations for the future of FTR markets
  • address questions raised by the members concerning the circumstances of the default

PJM members pressed the board for an independent investigation at their Oct. 3 meeting of the Liaison Committee. The committee, which bans media attendance, is an opportunity for PJM members to meet directly with the board several times throughout the year.

East Kentucky Power Cooperative’s Chuck Dugan, the committee’s chair, detailed members’ concerns in an Oct. 10 letter to PJM CEO Andy Ott. Dugan said several questions about the default were raised at the meeting and members are “pleased” the board agreed to the investigation.

The letter outlines six questions members have about PJM’s awareness, responsiveness and transparency regarding GreenHat’s portfolio, including why staff, after apparently learning about the potential default in February 2017, failed to inform members and instead proposed modifications to the RTO’s credit policy for members’ endorsement as if they were unprovoked.

Dugan acknowledged the investigation “will require time” but requested progress reports at upcoming Members Committee meetings. A PJM spokesperson could not provide a target date for completing the investigation.