Wesley Batista, the former chief executive of JBS S.A. and his brother Jose, who was formerly JBS S.A. chairman,  may now return to the management of J&F Investments SA, according to a ruling by Brazil’s Superior Court of Justice. 

J&F Investments SA is the Batista family holding company that owns JBS S.A.,  the world’s largest meatpacking company, which also owns other businesses involved in agriculture, manufacturing, marketing, sales, electric generation, waste management, real estate, and publishing.

joesley and wesley batistaAttorneys for the Batista brothers petitioned the Court to remove the ban because they said the coronavirus pandemic makes the return of the brothers to J&F management “essential.”

In the ruling, the court essentially found that keeping the Batista brothers out of J&F management puts Brazil’s national economy at risk. 

The Court said   “…the negative impacts that this global health crisis will have on the economy of each country and, especially, on the financial health and on the productive capacity of national and multinational companies” were arguments that reinforced the need for (the brothers) to return to the company to make decisions that preserve productive activity, jobs and tax collection at J&F which supplies 25 percent of Brazil’s food market and currently employs 260,000 workers.

The Batista brothers and other JBS S.A. executives allegedly bribed nearly  2,000 political and government officials including former Brazilian President Michel Temer and many of the country’s meat safety inspectors.

  “Operation Weak Flesh,” multiple criminal investigations,  by Brazil’s Federal Police brought these facts to light by 2017. Wesley and Jose Batista escaped initial prosecution through a plea bargain with government prosecutors, but none-the-less both did several months of jail time in 2018 for withholding certain information important to the agreement. They were then banned from J&F management.

J&F Investments agreed to pay $3.2 billion in fines fine to settle with Brazilian prosecutors. That agreement in 2017 was said to be the largest “leniency” deal in Brazilian history. 

The J&F fine was in addition to the $183.8 million paid by JBS S.A. to settle any criminal liability the meatpacking company might have faced in the bribery scandal that rocked Brazil. All totaled, the brothers paid fines roughly equal to what they paid a decade ago for all the current beef, pork, and poultry assets of JBS USA.

According to the Economist magazine, both of the Batista brothers’ billionaire status remained intact.

At the time, prosecutors in a statement said the $3,2 billion would be in “payments” that will be made exclusively by the holding company starting in December 2017.” They gave J&F up to 25 years to pay off the fine.  J&F confirmed the terms of the leniency agreement and said the fine is being paid by the holding company, to protect JBS’ minority shareholders.

For the 260,000 employees of JBS S.A., the criminal actions involving the Batista brothers brought change to the worldwide company.   Gilberto Tomazoni took over as Global CEO of JBS S.A. and Wesley Batista is now CEO of JBS South America while  André Nogueira is CEO of wholly-owned JBS USA based in Greeley, CO.  

JBS S.A. operates about 400 facilities in 15 countries. JBS USA accounts for about 50 percent of production. In a May 15 conference call with the investment community,  company officials said about 1,000 new employees have been hired because of the COVID-19 crisis.  About half are involved in training others in  COVID-19 safety protocols and the other half are responsible for stepped-up cleaning.

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