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Enron CEO in talks to cut prison sentence

Former Enron Corp. chief executive Jeffrey Skilling.

Richard Carson/Reuters/File 2006

Former Enron Corp. chief executive Jeffrey Skilling.

NEW YORK — Former Enron Corp. chief executive Jeffrey Skilling, now serving 24 years in prison for misleading his company’s investors, is in talks with the Justice Department to alter his sentence.

The Justice Department issued a notice Wednesday to victims, including thousands of former Enron employees and shareholders, asking them to alert the authorities by April 17 if they wish to express their views in court on a possible new sentence.

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‘‘On occasion, the United States Department of Justice enters into agreements with defendants to resolve certain disputed matters concerning sentencing,’’ the notice said. The government ‘‘is considering entering into a sentencing agreement with the defendant in this matter.’’

Michael Passman, a Justice Department spokesman, declined to comment on the talks and the notice didn’t provide any details about the basis of the discussions.

The talks were disclosed 11 months after Skilling’s lawyer, Daniel Petrocelli, said his client would seek a retrial based on what he called newly discovered evidence. Last month, US District Judge Sim Lake in Houston, where Enron was based, gave the 59-year-old Skilling until May 28 to file a request for the new trial, court records show.

Skilling, imprisoned at a low-security facility in Littleton, Colo., was convicted by a Houston jury in 2006 of misleading investors about the true financial condition of Enron. He was also convicted of lying to auditors and insider trading. According to the US Bureau of Prisons, he is scheduled to be released on Feb. 21, 2028, when he will be 74.

Enron, once the world’s largest energy trader, filed for bankruptcy in 2001 after revelations that it was hiding billions of dollars in losses, in turn inflating the company’s stock price. More than 5,000 jobs and $2 billion in employee retirement funds were wiped out, while investors sued to recover more than $60 billion in losses.

Kenneth Lay, Enron’s founder and chairman, was convicted of leading the fraud alongside Skilling. Lay’s conviction was erased when he died six weeks after the verdict, before he had a chance to appeal.

If Skilling reaches a sentencing deal and it’s approved by the court, a judge will schedule a new sentencing hearing and the government may be barred from appealing a final order, the Justice Department said in yesterday’s notice to victims.

Last year’s court filing about a bid for a new trial didn’t give details of new evidence.

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