Kenneth Lay, Enron Corp.’s founder and former chairman, could be indicted on charges stemming from its 2001 collapse by the end of June, sources close to the case told The Associated Press on Saturday.
Two sources who spoke to The AP on condition of anonymity said federal prosecutors are aggressively pursuing Lay, and witnesses with information about him have recently testified before a special grand jury probing Enron’s December 2001 collapse.
Barring any delays, federal prosecutors aim to ask the grand jury for an indictment before the Fourth of July, the sources said. The Houston Chronicle first reported the possible indictment in Saturday’s editions, citing unidentified lawyers close to the case.
It was unclear what kinds of charges would be filed against Lay, a friend and contributor to President Bush. The sources said any indictment would include conspiracy charges for allegedly participating in hiding Enron’s true financial condition before its collapse into bankruptcy.
Former Enron CEO Jeffrey Skilling and top accountant Richard Causey are awaiting trial on charges of conspiracy, fraud and insider trading.
Lay’s attorney, Michael Ramsey, said Saturday that he would ask to meet with the Justice Department’s Enron Task Force in the coming week.
“I feel very confident that Ken Lay did not commit a crime,” Ramsey said.
Bryan Sierra, a spokesman for the Justice Department, declined comment Saturday on anything pending before the grand jury.
Speculation about possible criminal charges against Lay grew more intense after former Enron finance chief Andrew Fastow pleaded guilty in January to two counts of conspiracy and became the most highly placed former Enron executive to become a cooperating witness for the government.
Fastow admitted to scheming to manipulate Enron’s books by hiding debt and inflating profits while enriching himself on the side.
Fastow’s subsequent cooperation with prosecutors led to the indictments of Skilling and Causey, prosecutors have revealed in court filings.
Ramsey said Saturday that Lay “had no idea that Andy Fastow was doing what he has now admitted he was doing.”
Lay has remained publicly silent since Enron’s collapse, except for expressing “profound sadness” for the scandal before invoking the Fifth Amendment before Congress in February 2002.
Enron’s accounting scandal and collapse into bankruptcy was the first in a series of corporate scandals. Thousands of workers lost their jobs and stock fell from a high of $90 in August 2000 to just pennies.