The focus on Drexel Burnham Lambert Inc.'s plea bargain agreement now shifts to Washington, where the fate of the settlement rests with the Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission.

On Wednesday the investment banking firm agreed with the Manhattan U.S. Attorney's office to plead guilty to six felony counts of mail, wire and securities fraud and to pay $650 million to avoid a far-reaching indictment that could include serious racketeering charges.It is the largest financial settlement reached in the U.S. government's probe of insider trading and securities fraud on Wall Street.

The sum Drexel has agreed to pay dwarfs the $100 million that Ivan Boesky, the once-powerful stock speculator, paid to settle civil insider trading charges.

But the agreement is not final, Giuliani said. It is contingent upon Drexel reaching an agreement with the Securities and Exchange Commission concerning the agency's pending civil case against Drexel. The agreement also requires Department of Justice approval.

In September, the SEC brought massive civil charges accusing Drexel, the head of its junk bond department Michael Milken, and others of engaging in a scheme to defraud Drexel customers, and of committing a variety of other securities-laws violations, including insider trading.

The SEC said it had no comment on the agreement Wednesday night. However the commission's chairman, David Ruder, will be testifying Thursday on leveraged buyouts before a House subcommittee, and he will most likely be questioned about the Drexel agreement.

The plea ends weeks of speculation about whether Drexel would reach a settlement with the government or be indicted on more serious charges, including racketeering. Under a plea bargain, a defendant agrees to plead guilty to some counts, normally to avoid going to trial on more serious charges.