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Last Updated: Thursday, 22 November 2007, 12:16 GMT
Enron law firm seeks $700m
Ken Lay and his wife Linda arrive at court in Houston
Trials of Enron executives attracted worldwide attention
The law firm that helped investors in failed energy giant Enron secure a $7.2bn (3.5bn; 4.9bn euros) settlement hopes to earn fees of $700m.

If the judge approves the payout to Coughlin Stoia Geller Rudman and Robbins, it will be the largest yet paid in a securities fraud case.

Enron hid billions of dollars in debts, in one of the biggest of a series of scandals that hit corporate America.

Investors won compensation from banks they accused of helping Enron.

These banks included JP Morgan Chase and Citigroup.

Legal deals

Enron went bankrupt in 2001 with debts of $31.8bn, costing more than 5,000 jobs and wiping out hundreds of millions of dollars of pension savings.

As a direct result of the Enron crisis, the US Congress passed a tough new law, called Sarbanes-Oxley, which imposed stricter rules on auditors and made corporate directors criminally liable for lying about their accounts.

The law firm that secured the payout to investors now wants 9.5% of the billions recovered from the energy giant's lenders, according to court documents seen by Reuters.

"The judge has to approve any fee in the case, then we have to pay out all of our counsel and other obligations before any distributions are made, so any set amount is purely speculative," said Patrick Coughlin, co-founder of the firm.

Fellow founder William Lerach has retired from the firm and has pleaded guilty to taking part in a kickback scheme at another law firm.

The Enron case is not the only one where lawyers stand to make large earnings.

Lawyers who secured settlements in cases involving manufacturing firm Tyco International have also pitched for $460m in fees.

This request is awaiting court approval.

Former boss of Tyco, Dennis Kozlowski, was found guilty last year of stealing money from the firm by taking unauthorized bonuses and sentenced to up to 25 years in jail.

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