With just three weeks remaining before three of the top ex-Enron Corp. executives go to trial, former Chief Accounting Officer Richard Causey is said to be nearing a plea deal with federal officials. If an agreement is reached, Causey’s knowledge could prove deadly to the other two defendants: former Chairman Kenneth Lay and former CEO Jeffrey Skilling.

It has not been confirmed, but the Houston Chronicle and the Washington Post both reported Causey, who has been in plea negotiations previously, may be close to completing an agreement to cooperate with prosecutors. Prosecutors would not comment, nor would Causey’s legal team.

Causey was Enron’s top accountant from 1998 until the he was fired in February 2002. The top accountant, who reported to Skilling, pleaded innocent to six securities fraud and conspiracy charges in January 2004 (see Daily GPI, Jan. 23, 2004). Causey also faces civil charges filed by the Securities and Exchange Commission for allegedly helping to engineer fraudulent schemes to hide poorly performing assets from Enron investors.

Lay’s lead attorney Mike Ramsey told the Chronicle he had “talked to Rick Causey myself, and I don’t believe he willfully did anything wrong. I don’t believe he would agree to plead guilty to a crime when he didn’t commit one.” Skilling attorney Daniel Petrocelli also told the newspaper he was skeptical of a deal.

“Over the past year, I’ve spent a lot of time with Rick Causey,” said Petrocelli. “He is an honest man and consummate professional, who worked his heart out for Enron,” Petrocelli said. “He never — let me repeat — never committed any fraud or criminal conduct of any kind. He knows it, and the government knows it.”

Causey apparently has relied on Skilling’s legal team in preparation for trial. According to the Chronicle, Causey recently switched lawyers who were representing him in the civil cases because of a lack of funds.

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