The bank faces a $470m (£292m) fine from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), which accuses traders of manipulating markets from 2006 to 2008.
The four traders in question – Daniel Brin, Ryan Smith, Karen Levine and their desk head Scott Connelly – no longer work at Barclays.
Barclays argues the charges – laid out in a legal document known as the Order to Show Cause – are overblown.
“We strongly disagree with the allegations made by FERC against Barclays and its former traders,” the bank said in a statement. “We believe that our trading was legitimate and above-board. The Order To Show Cause is by its very nature a one-sided document, and does not reflect a balanced and full description of the facts or the applicable legal standard.”
But some damage has already been done to the bank’s reputation.
In particular, a series of instant messages between staff have caused embarrassment, and have been presented as evidence of “manipulative intent” by FERC.
For example, Ryan Smiths’ instant messages said variously he would “f***,” “crap on” and “prop up” the market. Smith’s claims the language referred to “fun in the market” were dismissed by FERC as “not credible.”
The traders and the bank have 30 days to respond to the claims.