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Batistas agree to pay largest ‘leniency fine’ in Brazil’s history

Beef bribery scandal reached highest elected officials in Brazilian government

Beef brothers Joesley and Wesley Batista appear to be surviving the scandal that may bring down Brazilian President Michel Temer.  Shareholder challenges and reviews by U.S. regulators could still be ahead for the meatpackers in the near future.

However, their J&F Investments, the largest shareholder of worldwide meatpacker JBS SA, has agreed to pay a $3.2 billion fine to settle with Brazilian prosecutors. That’s in addition to the fine JBS SA earlier agreed to pay. It’s about the same amount JBS paid a decade ago for the beef and poultry assets the company now owns in the U.S.

The fines, which the Economist magazine reports leave both of the Batista brothers’ billionaire status in tact, also free them to leave the country if they want. Joesley Batista has moved with his wife, a former television personality, and their child back to New York City.

joesley and wesley batistaJoesley Batista also has stepped down as chairman and member of the JBS SA board of directors, including all committees. He was succeeded by former Proctor and Gamble executive Tarek Farahat, who also served on the JBS SA board prior to being elected chairman.

Farahat says “governance is my utmost priority,” adding that a significant amount of work needs to be done to regain the trust of our stakeholders and to protect the 235 families with someone employed by JBS.

Wesley Batista remains in Sao Paulo as chief executive of JBS. He also resigned his board position.

JBS SA, which owns Greeley, CO-based JBS USA, saw its credit ratings reduced and stock price plummet about 30 percent after it agreed to pay a $183.8 million to settle its criminal liability in a bribery scandal that reaches all the way to Brazil’s president.

The fine JBS paid is said to represent kickbacks the company made to 1,829 Brazilian politicians. Joesley Batista secretly taped Brazilian President Michael Temer during an apparent discussion of bribes. Batista blames country’s political climate for the company’s conduct, and says the illegal activity did not occur outside of Brazil.

The “leniency fine” being pad by J&F is the largest ever levied by state prosecutors.

“The payments will be made exclusively by the holding company and should start in December 2017,” prosecutors said in their statement, adding that J&F will have 25 years to pay off the fine. J&F confirmed the terms of the leniency agreement and said in an emailed statement that the fine is being paid by the holding company, to protect JBS’ minority shareholders.

In a separate securities filing, JBS said the fines settle charges of two corruption probes involving the company.

Joesley and Wesley Batista told prosecutors that J&F spent 600 million reais to bribe nearly the nearly 1,900 politicians in recent years. Testimony reportedly includes information about nearly $5 million that went directly to Temer in recent years. Two former presidents, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and Dilma Rousseff also accused of receiving $80 million in bribes in offshore accounts.

Temer, who was then vice president, succeed Rousseff last year after the president was impeached over budgetary laws.

Before the beef bribery scandal over took events, JBS SA planned to take its North American subsidiary public. JBS SA acquired beef processing in the U.S. by purchasing Swift in 2007 and picked up its poultry stake by buying Pilgrim’s Pride in 2009.

At that time, Wesley Batista moved to Northern Colorado, learned English, and led JBS USA from its then-new headquarters in Greeley.

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