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Did former El Paso traders issue false index reports?

HOUSTON (AP) — Four former El Paso Corp. natural gas traders have been charged with making false reports used to calculate the index price of natural gas, U.S. Attorney Michael Shelby said Wednesday.

Each of the traders, who worked for the Houston-based company's El Paso Merchant Energy division, was charged with one count of false reporting, Shelby said.

"These individuals would report either fictitious trades or they would modify actual trades in a way that would manipulate the price up or down from what it actually was," he said Wednesday at their initial court appearance.

Shelby said all four have agreed to plead guilty and cooperate in an ongoing investigation into false reports in the energy industry. They will formally enter their pleas later this month, Shelby said.

The four, who were released on personal recognizance bonds, were Christopher Bakkenist, 41; Dallas Dean III, 60; Donald J. Guilbault, 51; and William L. Ham, 45.

Dean's attorney, George Tyson, had no comment in the case. Kyle Sampson, who represents Ham, said his client has always cooperated with investigators.

"In an ideal world, we would have liked to avoid a criminal charge," he said. "He's taking responsibility and continues to cooperate."

Attorneys for the other two men did not immediately return telephone calls.