Enron Execs’ fates to be set

12 years ago Comments Off on Enron Execs’ fates to be set

HOUSTON (AP) – Former executives who pleaded guilty to Enron-related crimes in the years after the energy company crumbled could finally be sentenced next year, during or after the conspiracy and fraud trial of company founder Kenneth Lay and former CEO Jeffrey Skilling.

Of the 16 who have pleaded guilty, most have had sentencing dates consistently postponed as the government pursued criminal charges against former top officers.

Those expected to testify in the January trial of Lay, Skilling and former top Enron accountant Richard Causey now have sentencing dates throughout 2006 that are likely to stand if prosecutors no longer need their cooperation.

Defendants would have little incentive to cooperate with prosecutors in exchange for leniency if sentences already had been handed down, experts said.

“Sentencing is prolonged to exercise some leverage over the defendants. I don’t think the defendants are in any great hurry either,” said Philip Hilder, a former federal prosecutor who represents several potential Enron witnesses. “If they testify, the chances of the government coming to bat for them later on for a reduction in sentence is greatly enhanced.”

Skilling and Causey face more than 30 counts, including fraud and conspiracy, for alleged schemes to fool investors into believing Enron was healthy before it crashed in December 2001. Lay faces seven counts of conspiracy and fraud for allegedly taking over the ruse upon Skilling’s abrupt resignation almost four months before Enron failed.

All three have pleaded innocent, and their trial is expected to last four to six months.Duncan, who worked closely with Causey; Kenneth Rice, a former top trader and CEO of Enron’s defunct broadband unit who was in Skilling’s inner circle; and Mark Koenig, Enron’s former head of investor relations.

Fastow and Duncan are set to be sentenced in June; Koenig in May; and Rice in December, after three retrials of five former broadband executives conclude. Rice testified in the first broadband trial this year, but jurors exonerated three executives on some charges and couldn’t reach verdicts on others.

Fastow pleaded guilty in January 2004 to two counts of conspiracy for orchestrating schemes to hide Enron debt and inflate profits while pocketing millions of dollars. He agreed to serve the maximum 10-year sentence, but he can shave a year and a half from that term with good time credit.

Most of the others face anything from probation to years in prison, depending on what prosecutors recommend.

Two have already slept in a cell. Fastow’s wife, Lea, who cooperated with prosecutors, served a one-year term after pleading guilty last year to a tax crime for helping hide her husband’s ill-gotten income from the government. And former treasurer Ben Glisan Jr., who answered to Fastow, is serving a five-year term after pleading guilty to conspiracy in September 2003 because he didn’t initially cooperate with prosecutors.