- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 12, 2002

The federal agency that oversees commodity trading is investigating whether collapsed Enron Corp. committed fraud or manipulated markets through improper trading, the agency's chairman said yesterday.
"We do have a full investigation under way," James Newsome, chairman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), said in a telephone interview. He said the agency was using its anti-fraud and anti-manipulation authority to investigate Enron's trading on commodity exchanges, notably the New York Mercantile Exchange, as well as its own big online trading system.
The system, called EnronOnline, was the world's first commodity-trading platform based on the Web.
Enron was the world's largest buyer and seller of natural gas and grew into the nation's seventh-largest company and a favorite of Wall Street by becoming the country's leading electricity trader. The Houston-based company later started new trading markets in telecommunications bandwidth, pulp, paper, plastics and the influence of the weather.
Enron spiraled downward into the biggest corporate bankruptcy in U.S. history on Dec. 2.
Mr. Newsome, who was confirming a report in yesterday's Wall Street Journal, said the CFTC began an inquiry into Enron's trading last fall that later became a formal investigation.
The Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission are investigating Enron, its accounting practices and the role of the Arthur Andersen accounting firm. In addition, the Labor Department is examining Enron's actions in banning employees who lost their retirement savings from selling company stock in their 401(k) plans for about three weeks.

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