Audit Notes: wincing with WSJ, Golden Dawn, energy-market manipulation

Treasury candidates and Journal art

The Wall Street Journal reports that President Obama is trying to fire up the base with trial balloons on who will be his post-Geithner Treasury Secretary: Former Citigroup exec Jacob Lew and Erskine Bowles of Simpson-Bowles. I kid about the base, but not about the reported Treasury candidates.

More important: What’s up with the WSJ’s picture choices for Romney’s possible Treasury secretaries Robert Zoellick and Glenn Hubbard?

I know Romney’s behind in the polls, but these grimace shots are a bit much.

— This is spooky: The New York Times reports on the rise of the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party in Greece, which the paper says now polls as the third biggest party in the country. The paper leads with news of a chilling video of a Golden Dawn lawmaker leading a group of thugs demanding to see vendors’ immigration papers and ransacking a stand.

Golden Dawn’s tactics are similar to ones it used before parliamentary elections in June. Preying on fears that immigrants are worsening crime rates and economic hardship, the group has been stepping up attacks against immigrants, many of whom are legal citizens, with the police frequently standing by. It is also trying to expand its reach with the Greek diaspora.

The group recently opened an office in New York, announcing its presence with a sleek Web site depicting a stylized Swastika against a darkened Manhattan skyline…

After the episodes, Golden Dawn lawmakers were barred from receiving the protection of the police, who human rights groups say are increasingly looking the other way when confronted with evidence of violence by Golden Dawn sympathizers, with some officers seeming more sympathetic to them than to their victims. Mr. Samaras played down concerns that the Greek police were sympathetic to the group.

Golden Dawn has been on the rise for months now, thanks to the catastrophic depression in Greece that’s largely due to the austerity policies imposed on it by Germany and the EU. But the NYT says it now polls as the third most popular party, ahead of the Socialist Pasok, and its approval rating has doubled in the last few months to 22 percent.

— The Los Angeles Times’s Michael Hiltzik is keeping an eye on charges by California’s wholesale grid operator that JPMorgan Chase manipulated energy markets there:

JPMorgan, which doesn’t own a power plant in California but has trading rights to the output of 10 Southern California generating stations, keeps FERC and the California ISO on their toes all by itself. In 2011, days after ISO closed the original loophole it says Morgan exploited, the firm found another one, according to ISO filings. That chicanery cost ratepayers $5.3 million over just five days, ISO said.

Just last month, JPMorgan was alleged to have exploited yet two more loopholes in the trading rules, which may have garnered the firm nearly $10 million in possibly excessive payments. The California ISO is currently withholding $3.7 million from the firm, apparently to cover its losses. FERC hasn’t launched an investigation of that trading, and Morgan has said it has done nothing wrong.

This month FERC opened a new front in this battle. The commission charged that JPMorgan, with the assistance of its lawyers, gave it the runaround when it asked for financial information in connection with its investigation. According to FERC public documents, JPMorgan dodged the request for months and then provided misleading and incomplete information.

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Ryan Chittum is a former Wall Street Journal reporter, and deputy editor of The Audit, CJR's business section. If you see notable business journalism, give him a heads-up at Follow him on Twitter at @ryanchittum. Tags: , , , ,