Well, it finally happened. Speculation had been mounting for some time that US prosecutors were close to negotiating a plea bargain with former Enron chief accounting officer Richard Causey. Causey, 45, was due in the dock in Houston on January 17th, when his trial was set to begin. There with him was to have been former Enron CEOs Ken Lay and Jeffrey Skilling. All three had been charged on a number of counts pertaining to the demise of the former energy giant.
The three former Enron men faced decades behind bars if found guilty of conspiracy, wire and securities fraud and a raft of other counts. All three had pleaded not guilty - until now. Prosecutors, however, have managed to extract a guilty plea from Causey (to one count of securities fraud), and they hope to use his evidence against both Lay and Skilling. The deal with Causey will mean that the former Enron man will receive a maximum sentence of 7 years, which could reduce to 5 years if he provides 'truthful, complete and accurate information' on what went down. The four-year investigation into the Enron affair has been the largest and most sophisticated corporate fraud probe in US history.
Causey's role as Enron's chief accounting officer put him at the centre of the Enron action. He was in prime position to know what financial shenanigans, if any, actually went on. Said to be a likeable and affable man, Causey would make a credible witness for the US Government.
Houston, in the meantime, is gearing up for the trial (which has now been delayed until 30th January), which is expected to last for several months and be in the headlines for much of that time. Ken Lay said earlier this month that, as he has nothing to hide, he will be taking the stand in his own defense.