Reliant Energy Services is the latest firm to settle with the Commodity Futures Trading Commission for allegedly reporting false trading information in the natural gas market. The $18 million November 25 settlement is despite Reliant?s statement that it was unaware of evidence that may have implicated the company. ?Illegal trading resulted in the reporting of non-bona fide prices, in violation of the Commodities Exchange Act,? noted regulators. Other traders at the time, CMS Marketing Services & Trading and CMS Field Services, agreed to a $16 million settlement for similar charges of bogus gas trades. ?There comes a point where the costs . . . of litigation outweigh the costs of settlement,? said Joel Staff, Reliant chair and chief executive officer. The alleged reporting may have made the energy crisis?era market bigger than it actually was. The practice in question is known as ?wash trades? or ?wash sales,? in which trades were made and then sold back for the same price although no gas had traded hands. This may have inflated the market as a whole and affected futures contracts. Senator Joe Dunn (D-Santa Ana) has also publicly blasted the practice in his investigative committee. <b>Commodity Futures Trading Commission Settlements<\/b> Among the Commodity Futures Trading Commission?s fines over the past year for alleged gas wash trade aberrations during the energy crisis are: <b>November 25, 2003<\/b>?$18 million for Reliant Energy Services. <b>November 25, 2003<\/b>?$16 million for CMS Marketing Services & Trading and CMS Field Services. <b>September 17, 2003<\/b>?$28 million for Duke Energy. <b>July 29, 2003<\/b>?$20 million for Williams. <b>March 26, 2003<\/b>?$20 million for El Paso Merchant Energy. <b>December 2002<\/b>?$5 million for Dynegy.