NEW YORK -- Ashland Oil Inc. is seeking restitution from its former chairman for expenses it incurred from his scheme to sell confidential documents to the National Iranian Oil Co.

The former chairman, Orin E. Atkins, faces sentencing Friday in Manhattan federal court for his role in the scheme. A settlement on restitution is expected to be announced at the sentencing.

Atkins, 66, of North Palm Beach, Fla., pleaded guilty in September 1989 to conspiracy and wire fraud and agreed to cooperate with the government.

He faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $500,000 fine when sentenced by U.S. District Judge Charles S. Haight.

Atkins admitted that after he resigned as chairman in 1981 but remained as a paid Ashland consultant he obtained confidential documents involving the company's decision not to pay National Iranian for $283 million in crude oil purchased in 1979.

Atkins and others involved in the scheme offered to sell the documents to the Iranian company for use in a possible lawsuit against Ashland over its nonpayment.

While the Iranians never bought the documents, they later sued Ashland and last year obtained a $325 million settlement, which with interest was worth more than $500 million.

Ashland, based in Ashland, Ky., first made its request for restitution from Atkins in an Oct. 21 letter to Haight.

The company did not give a specific amount, asking Haight to set a "just and proper" figure, but it did outline its expenditures and its payments to Atkins during the scheme.

According to the company letter written by Elam, Ashland spent $1.47 million on an internal investigation of Atkins's acts and related attorneys fees.

Additionally, Elam said that since October 1981, Ashland has paid Atkins more than $2.5 million in consulting fees and other discretionary corporate benefits and more than half a million dollars in pension benefits.

"Mr. Atkins, a lawyer, held the very highest position at Ashland Oil Inc. prior to his resignation," Elam wrote. "We submit that an individual who has held such a unique position also has the highest degree of responsibility and, therefore, has the duty to make restitution."