Ex-Enron CEO Skilling likely to be indicted

Criminal charges are expected to relate to job as president

February 14, 2004|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

Federal prosecutors are planning to seek a criminal indictment against Jeffrey K. Skilling, a former chief executive of Enron Corp., people involved in the case said yesterday.

The timing of the charges is uncertain, the people said, although the current plan is for them to be unveiled no earlier than Thursday. Throughout the Enron case, prosecutors have repeatedly filed charges under seal for a few days, revealing them only after defendants have surrendered to the authorities.

It was unclear what charges might be filed against Skilling, but most of the allegations pertain to events that occurred when he was Enron's chief operating officer and president.

In recent months, prosecutors have been seeking evidence of Skilling's involvement in a series of accounting moves at Enron. In other criminal cases, the government has contended that the movements were part of an effort to falsely pump up the company's financial performance.

Prosecutors also have sought to link Skilling to what they contend was a criminal conspiracy to misrepresent the technological abilities of Enron's broadband unit from 1999 through 2001. A number of executives from the Enron broadband division were indicted on such charges last year.

Bruce Hiler, a lawyer for Skilling, said his client had done nothing improper. He said all of Skilling's actions were taken with the full knowledge and approval of scores of lawyers, accountants and members of the company's board. "If the COO can be indicted for transactions that were reviewed and recommended by dozens of experts, then no COO should go to work tomorrow morning, because if something goes wrong with their company they are in danger of being indicted," he said.

Prosecutors have long considered Skilling a primary target. He succeeded Kenneth L. Lay as Enron's chief executive in early 2001 but resigned less than six months later, a move that resulted in public questioning of the company's financial position. Accounting problems rapidly emerged, and Enron was bankrupt within four months.

Skilling transformed what once had been a staid pipeline company into something more like an investment bank. Enron's accounting and finance efforts became increasingly aggressive until, prosecutors contend, they crossed the line into illegality.

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