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Enron Probe Likely to Expand

Investigators seek cooperation from three former executives and eye broadband venture.

January 01, 2003|From Reuters

WASHINGTON — Government investigators are expected to bring more charges in the Enron Corp. probe in weeks ahead as they keep squeezing mid-level managers to build cases against former top bosses Kenneth L. Lay and Jeffrey K. Skilling, sources close to the case said Tuesday.

As the inquiry into the energy trader's collapse entered its second year, sources said the government was pressuring ex-Enron Chief Accounting Officer Richard A. Causey, ex-Treasurer Ben Glisan and ex-broadband services head Kenneth Rice to cooperate.

Investigators were said to be burrowing into Enron's ill-fated broadband venture, while still scrutinizing murky off-balance-sheet deals and insider trading allegations.

Sources said a superseding indictment of ex-Enron Chief Financial Officer Andrew S. Fastow may be brought within days. The indictment, which would replace one brought last year, may name additional former executives, sources said.

Fastow pleaded not guilty Nov. 6 to a 78-count fraud and money laundering indictment. Sources said he has since been offered a cooperation deal by the government, but refused it.

The former Enron finance chief "believes he's innocent of all charges and will state his case in court," said Fastow spokesman Gordon Andrew, who declined to comment further.

"Like every prosecution, they're working up the ladder," said a source familiar with the matter.

Although the federal investigation initially was centered on shadowy off-balance-sheet deals and large stock sales by top executives, prosecutors were said more recently to be gathering evidence on Enron's short-lived foray into broadband services, or high-speed telecommunications over fiber-optic cables.

Houston-based Enron once promoted the profit potential of its involvement in transmitting content, such as movies, over fiber-optic cables and in trading fiber-optic capacity.

Skilling's involvement in the broadband business is a focus of investigators' inquiries, sources said.

An attorney for Skilling, who quit as Enron's president in August 2001, could not be reached. Nor could a lawyer for Lay, who stepped down as Enron chairman in January 2002.

Enron's stunning collapse in late 2001 ushered in a wave of corporate scandals that shook Wall Street and Washington, exacerbating a bear market now in its third year and prompting passage in the summer of a number of legal reforms by Congress.

The Enron scandal is still occupying legions of lawyers, and probably will for years to come, on both sides of the government's criminal probe and separate shareholder lawsuits.

Lawyers for the three men could not be reached. Justice Department and Securities and Exchange Commission officials declined to comment on their probes of Enron.

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