CIBC to Pay Investors $2.4B in Enron Class Action

Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (search) has settled with investors of collapsed energy firm Enron Corp. for $2.4 billion, CIBC and the lead plaintiff in a class-action lawsuit against a group of banks said on Tuesday.

The agreement, paid to investors who accused the banks of defrauding shareholders, is the largest in the Enron class-action suit so far and will bring the total size of the Enron class-action settlement to a record $7 billion.

William Lerach, the plaintiffs' main lawyer, said that the growing settlements could put pressure on the remaining seven defendants to resolve the suit. Of the 12 banks that were defendants, five have now settled.

"It sends a very serious message to those banks that have not yet settled that they better get about settling soon or they are going to pay more and more as time goes by," Lerach said.

CIBC, which said it does not admit wrongdoing, said it will take a C$2.5 billion ($2.1 billion) after-tax charge in the quarter ended July 31 for the settlement, after the lead plaintiff, the University of California, announced the settlement.

Enron filed for bankruptcy in 2001 after its use of off-balance sheet deals to hide tens of billions of dollars in debt were revealed. Its meltdown sparked a flurry of shareholder lawsuits and some criminal charges against the company and management.

Citigroup (C) and JPMorgan Chase (JPM) have both settled in the class-action suit, paying $2 billion and $2.2 billion respectively to the plaintiffs.

Citigroup and JPMorgan did not admit wrongdoing in agreeing to settle.

Lehman Brothers and Bank of America have agreed to smaller settlements, totaling about $292 million.

The total settlements in the Enron class-action suit exceed the previous record of about $6 billion that over a dozen Wall Street banks agreed to pay to settle allegations they didn't adequately examine WorldCom Inc.'s financial health when they sold securities in 2000 and 2001.

Other banks that are defendants in the Enron suit include Barclays, Credit Suisse's Credit Suisse First Boston (search), Deutsche Bank (search), Merrill Lynch & Co. (MER), Toronto-Dominion Bank Royal Bank of Canada and Royal Bank of Scotland.

Former Enron Chairman Kenneth Lay (search) and ex-Chief Executive Jeffrey Skilling (search) are scheduled to go on trial in January 2006.

The energy trader emerged from bankruptcy proceedings last year as a private entity that is in the process of liquidating remaining assets to pay off part of its debts.