The U.S. Department of Labor reached an agreement Monday to set aside $356 million from the sale of Enron's assets to cover some of the bankrupt energy company's retirement and pension plan benefits.

"This agreement makes possible a significant recovery for Enron retirees and their families," Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao said in a statement. "Corporate malfeasance will not be tolerated and every effort will be made to protect workers who are harmed by it."

The Labor Department sued Enron in 2003 on behalf of the company's employees, alleging that Enron mismanaged the retirement and pension plans by relying on stocks and doing nothing to protect workers from losses. The exact amount to be paid into the plans depends on the final value of the company's assets, which will be decided in bankruptcy court. The Labor Department said that the final agreement is subject to approval by the New York Bankruptcy and Texas District Courts, and does not settle the department's separate claims against founder Kenneth L. Lay and former chief executive Jeffrey Skilling. The board of director defendants, the Enron officers and administrative committee members who were previously sued for mismanagement of the employee benefit plans, have already paid $86 million under settlements with the Labor Department and private plaintiffs.

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