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Feds eye charges against Lay, Skilling

Federal officials are examining former chairman Kenneth Lay's last months at Enron Corp.  to see if there are grounds for criminal charges against him, according a Wall Street Journal Monday report citing unnamed sources.
/ Source: Reuters

Federal officials are examining former chairman Kenneth Lay's last months at Enron Corp.  to see if there are grounds for criminal charges against him, according a Wall Street Journal Monday report citing unnamed sources.

Prosecutors could be in a position to file criminal charges against the power company's former Chief Executive Jeffrey Skilling in the next several weeks, the paper said, citing a person familiar with the situation.

Enron went bankrupt in Dec. 2001, triggering a massive scandal and a U.S. Justice Department criminal probe into accounting practices such as off-balance sheet partnerships suspected of being used to hide debt and inflate profits.

The government is now examining a period beginning in August 2001 when Jeffrey Skilling quit and Lay took over the chief executive role but they are not close to making a decision about Lay, the paper said.

Officials are comparing Lay's public remarks about the company's condition to what he knew in his final months there since Lay "can't say he wasn't in charge" during this time, the paper said, quoting an unnamed source.

Prosecutors have been examining Lay's stock dealings without finding a basis for criminal charges so far, the Journal said.

Last month, Enron's former accounting chief Richard Causey was charged with helping engineer fraud in collusion with other executives. Also in January, former Chief Financial Officer Andrew Fastow pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges.