The former chief accounting officer for failed energy giant Enron Corp. could be close to reaching a deal with prosecutors, on the eve of the trial against company founder Ken Lay and former chief executive Jeffery Skilling, according to published reports.

Former accounting officer Richard Causey faces 34 charges, including fraud, conspiracy, lying to auditors, money laundering and insider trading -- similar to the counts brought against Lay and Skilling.

Causey's testimony could further tighten the government's case in a trial scheduled to begin Jan. 17. Former Enron finance chief Andrew Fastow pleaded guilty in January 2004 to two counts of conspiracy and is expected to be a key witness, though Causey could provide the link to the higher-ranking executives.

Fifteen other former Enron executives have pleaded guilty to various crimes, including securities fraud and insider trading. Causey, Lay and Skilling have all pleaded not guilty. Reports have said that the trio were attempting to build a defense that the company was a fundamentally sound business brought down by liquidity problems after trading partners lost confidence following the 2001 terrorist attacks and the implosion of tech stocks.

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