Duke Energy’s Having a Bad Week

23 online wash trades of $1 billion to influence volumes, a 17 percent decrease in first-quarter net income, an SEC investigation of their trading practices, analyst downgrades of Duke stock. One of these in any week would be bad enough, but this is a pretty overwhelming concatenation of bad news.

Investigating these wash trades should be a complicated and nuanced process. As I’ve stated before, the system balancing requirements of an integrated electricity network sometimes necessitates wash trades, and it’s important to distinguish between the wash trades intended to maintain system balance and the wash trades intended to make the trader look like a more important player in the industry. For those reasons, policies geared toward abolishing all wash trades would be counterproductive and contribute to making electricity networks less stable.