Washington, Nov. 8 (Reuters): Former Enron chairman Kenneth Lay must surrender documents he had tried to withhold, under an agreement endorsed by a federal judge on Friday that could advance a probe into the energy giant’s collapse.
Lay dropped his assertions that the ‘personal’ documents were covered by constitutional protections against self-incrimination, allowing the information to be used for “any other action or proceeding against Lay.”
He had been scheduled to appear in federal court in Washington on Friday to answer a Securities and Exchange Commission complaint that he had not fully complied with a subpoena for the documents.
Minutes before the hearing was to begin, the judge issued the order formalising an agreement between Lay and the SEC.
Lay and former Enron chief executive Jeff Skilling have not been charged to date in connection with Enron’s collapse amid an accounting scandal two years ago. However, an increasing number of their lieutenants have pleaded guilty or face trial.
Skilling and Lay have denied any wrongdoing.
“It’s fairly clear as well that the government is in a building block process, typical of the way prosecutors build a case with the biggest targets at the end,” said Neil Getnick, an attorney whose New York firm specialises in business fraud litigation.
Lay’s lawyers have said he had already produced more than 23,000 pages of documents for the SEC. The dispute had been over 870 remaining pages.
“Given the massive amount of documents, one can only be left to speculate that these 870 pages potentially could be very valuable, which is why he held on to them so dearly,” said Getnick.
Michael Ramsey, an attorney for Lay in Texas, did not immediately return a call for comment on the court order. According to the order signed by district judge Royce Lamberth, Lay must produce the remaining pages within three days.