Merrill bankers at centre of first Enron criminal trial

The first criminal trial stemming from the 2001 collapse of Enron began yesterday with the swearing in of a jury.

The first criminal trial stemming from the 2001 collapse of Enron began yesterday with the swearing in of a jury.

The trial is expected to focus on the role the investment bank Merrill Lynch played in the alleged financial irregularities at the energy trading giant.

Four former Merrill bankers, including Daniel Bayly, the former chairman of global investment banking, have been charged with agreeing a sham trade with Enron in December 1999 which allowed the company to book a bogus $12m profit. Also standing trial in the case in Houston, Texas, are two middle-ranking Enron employees from its finance department.

The case does not involve high-ranking Enron executives, such as its two former chief executives, Kenneth Lay and Jeffrey Skilling. It will be closely watched by the pair, however.

Evidence at the trial may implicate Mr Lay and Mr Skilling. The two are expected to stand trial next year, on multiple charges of having directed an accounting fraud that forced Enron to file the second largest bankruptcy in US history and to fire more than 5,000 workers.

The Merrill team have been accused of agreeing to buy investments in three power-generating barges in Nigeria from Enron.

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