Enron Corp. shareholders could see a record payout from the failed energy trader, with average payouts of $6.79/share for common stock and $168.50/share for preferred stock, under a court agreement that would settle a 2001 class action lawsuit. The settlement is expected to be finalized in a Houston courtroom in February.

U.S. District Judge Melinda Harmon in Houston approved a mailing to the shareholders, which officially notified them of a $7.2 billion settlement fund and the Feb. 29 hearing on how the fund may be disbursed. Lawyers' fees of about $688 million, or about 10% minus interest, would be subtracted from the total.

Even with the lawyers' fees subtracted from the payout, the case would be a record for securities litigation. The previous highest settlement was in WorldCom's bankruptcy, which settled a class action shareholder lawsuit for $6.1 billion.

The lawsuit, also known as the "Newby" lawsuit after shareholder Mark Newby, includes about 1.5 million buyers of Enron stock. It covers shareholders who purchased stock between Sept. 9, 1997 through Dec. 2, 2001 when the company declared bankruptcy.

Most of the class fund will come from settlements with Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, Lehman Brothers, Bank of America, former accountant Arthur Andersen and Enron's former directors.

The shareholders could have purchased common shares as high as $90 when Enron was soaring in August 2000 or as low as $1 right before the bankruptcy.

More information about the settlement is available from the lead plaintiff, the University of California.

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