Four ex-Merrill Lynch investment bankers and a former Enron official were found guilty in Houston on Wednesday of wire fraud and conspiracy charges.
The six week trial focused on an obscure 1999 Nigerian barge deal executed between Merrill Lynch and Enron. After 11 hours of deliberations, the jury found that the deal itself was an earnings manipulation sham. The Merrill bankers were effectively accused of helping to cook Enron's books, as the profits booked on the deal were used at the time to enable the failed energy giant to meet earnings targets.
A sixth defendant, former Enron in-house accountant Sheila Kahanek, was acquitted as she is said to have consistently expressed opposition to the deal. The guilty five, who face the prospect of jail time, will not be finally sentenced until March next year.
Including the five defendants in this latest case, the US government has now secured 15 guilty verdicts so far in respect to Enron-related trials.