- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 12, 2002

HOUSTON (AP) Attorneys negotiating severance payments for former Enron Corp. employees reached a tentative agreement yesterday that could more than double the severance some of the laid-off workers already have received.
Officials with the AFL-CIO, the Rev. Jesse Jackson and Houston-area political leaders announced a tentative agreement had been reached with Enron and the creditors' committee to secure an additional $29 million in severance payments for laid-off workers.
Before the agreement, $43 million had already been awarded to the more than 4,500 people who lost their jobs last December when the former energy giant filed for bankruptcy protection last year amid a Securities and Exchange Commission investigation into questionable accounting practices.
"We are pleased to have reached an agreement to pay our former employees additional severance benefits," Enron spokesman Mark Palmer said.
Luc Despins, the lead lawyer for the creditors' committee, had no comment on the deal.
Under terms of the proposed agreement, former workers who already have received $5,600 in severance from the bankrupt Houston-based energy trading firm could get an additional $7,900.
Employees would get no more than $13,500, minus any payments they have already received, based on their salary and length of employment.
Former employees who decide to reject the severance package to preserve possible future legal action would receive no additional payment.
Some laid-off Enron workers were pleased with the deal.
"I think this is real good," said Tammy Giffrow, 41, who worked 11 years for Enron as an administrative assistant. "We never knew if anything would come out of this."
Damon Silvers, associate general counsel for the AFL-CIO, said the agreement will be presented at a hearing in about 10 days before New York-based U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Arthur Gonzalez for his preliminary approval.
If Judge Gonzalez signs off on it, laid-off workers who agree to accept it will quickly get a $2,000 payment. Once final approval is given, possibly about six weeks later, employees would get the balance, Mr. Silvers said.
"We didn't get everything we asked for," he said. "We were really starting from zero. We were really insistent that people had a choice to take it or not."
Enron and its creditors are not required to pay any more severance. Under bankruptcy law, former employees are often the last to be paid.
Meanwhile, Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman, Connecticut Democrat, called on the White House to turn over the rest of its Enron-related documents in addition to the 2,500 pages or so it has delivered under subpoena.
In a letter Monday to the White House counsels for President Bush and Vice President Richard B. Cheney, Mr. Lieberman said the committee needs all the documents so it can finish its investigation of Enron Corp.
The Senate Governmental Affairs Committee chairman also asked for details on the gathering of relevant documents, including the status of questionnaires that White House attorneys had asked employees to fill out.
"The committee is trying hard to work with the White House in pursuit of our Enron investigation," Mr. Lieberman wrote. "However, we must balance your requests for accommodations with the committee's need to conduct its inquiry."
The panel has been seeking the information from the White House since late March as part of its investigation of Enron's collapse.


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