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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Andersen Eyes Enron Settlement

WASHINGTON -- Arthur Andersen has said it is willing to make a substantial payment to Enron shareholders if that would quickly settle a pending class-action lawsuit and leave the accounting firm enough money to stay in business, a source familiar with the litigation said.

Andersen has raised the possibility of a settlement in recent discussions with attorneys for various shareholder groups, the source said. The accounting giant is said to have expressed concern that clients may drop it during the spring -- when companies typically hold annual meetings and ask shareholders to approve the appointment of auditors -- if they doubt Andersen's ability to survive the case.

"We remain confident we can work through this successfully," Andersen said Wednesday in a statement that neither confirmed nor denied it had made overtures about a settlement.

"Reaching out to the groups affected in this case is consistent with our commitment to address the issues raised by Enron's collapse in a straightforward and constructive manner," Andersen said. "We think it is in the best interests of all parties to deal expeditiously and responsibly with what has occurred."

An Andersen spokesman declined to comment beyond the firm's prepared statement.

The starting point for any negotiations would be a payment of about $250 million, which represents the extent of Andersen's insurance coverage, a source familiar with the discussions said.

William Lerach, whose law firm Milberg Weiss Bershad Hynes was chosen Friday to lead the shareholder action, did not return calls.

A spokesman for the University of California, which lost about $145 million on Enron stock and was recently named the lead plaintiff in the case, said it is in no hurry to settle.

"It would be hard to talk about a settlement until we had discovered all of the facts in the case," spokesman Trey Davis said, adding that the university has had "no substantive discussions with Andersen."