Former Enron Chief Executive Jeffrey Skilling has made what is probably the most important deal of his life.
Skilling, who is serving a 24-year sentence over his role in one of the biggest corporate collapses in U.S. history, has agreed to stop appealing against his conviction in exchange for a 10-year reduction in his jail time.
Wednesday’s agreement with federal prosecutors is subject to court approval, but if it gets the green light it could free up more than $40 million worth of assets seized from Skilling for distribution to the long list of Enron victims.
Skilling, 59, who worked for the energy giant for 20 years and was CEO for six months, was convicted in 2006 on 19 counts of securities fraud, conspiracy, insider trading and lying to auditors.
Enron collapsed in 2001 under the weight of years of dodgy business deals and accounting trickery, and thousands of workers subsequently lost their jobs and retirement savings.
Other former Enron executives were also convicted, including Skilling’s predecessor, Kenneth Lay, who was found guilty of fraud and conspiracy. Lay died from a heart attack in 2006 while awaiting sentencing.
Ex-Enron chief financial officer Andrew Fastow served six years behind bars and has since been released.
The agreement between prosecutors and Skilling's defense team came about after an appeals court upheld Skilling’s convictions in 2009 but ordered his sentence be reduced.
"The proposed agreement brings certainty and finality to a long, painful process," lead defense attorney Daniel Petrocelli said Wednesday.
"Although the recommended sentence for Jeff would still be more than double any other Enron defendant, all of whom have long been out of prison, Jeff will at least have the chance to get back a meaningful part of his life."
A final decision on Skilling’s sentence will be made on June 21.