Enron Corp. has announced a proposed settlement that may pay members of its pension plans just pennies on the dollar.[@@]

The failed Houston energy company has negotiated an agreement with the U.S. Department of Labor and pension plan members that calls for the bankruptcy courts to allow the plaintiffs to make a general unsecured claim of $356.25 million against Enron, Enron says.

The agreement also calls for Enron to fully fund its defined benefit pension plans and terminate them through a standard termination process, Enron says.

Once Enron terminates the plans, the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. has agreed to end efforts to terminate some Enron pension plans involuntarily, Enron says.

Enron says it also has agreed to appoint a new administrative committee to oversee its retirement plans. The committee must hire independent fiduciaries that will select an annuity provider for the plans and oversee the enforcement of the class-action settlement agreement, Enron says.

Other suits against Enron are still in progress, but, if the bankruptcy court in New York and the U.S. District Court in Houston approve the agreement, the settlement could help Enron remove about $7 billion in claims against the Enron estate, according to Stephen Cooper, Enron’s interim chief executive officer and chief restructuring officer.