As it turned out, Manhattan bank accounts and real estate were critical assets in bribing high government officials in a meat scandal in Brazil. And for that, J&F Investments S.A. has to pay millions to the U.S. government to escape criminal charges in North American for bribing Brazilian politicians and other officials. It was all part of an expensive settlement for the financial entity associated with the Batista family that’s behind JBS S.A.
J&F is the controlling shareholder of JBS S.A., the world’s largest meat company. It has pleaded to one count of conspiracy in violation of the U.S. Foreign Corruption Practices Act (FCPA), which is associated with the bribery of Brazilian officials and companies. Under a plea agreement, the U.S. Department of Justice is giving J&F a 50 percent credit for amounts paid to Brazilian authorities, cutting a $256.5 million fine down to $128.3 million.
The publicly-traded JBS S.A. is not a party to the agreement and does not have any liabilities arising from it.
To carry out the bribery scheme, J&F executives admitted using New York-based bank accounts to facilitate the bribery scheme and to make corrupt payments, including the purchase and transfer of a Manhattan apartment as a bribe, and holding U.S. meetings to discuss and further aspects of the illegal scheme.
James Dawson, special agent in charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Washington Field Office Criminal Division, said, “No matter where it occurs, the FBI and our global partners are committed to diligently rooting out corruption that betrays the public trust and threatens a fair economy.”
“With today’s guilty plea, J&F has admitted to engaging in a long-running scheme to bribe corrupt officials in Brazil to obtain financing and other benefits for the company,” said DOJ’s Brian Rabbitt, acting assistant attorney general for the criminal division.
“As part of this scheme, executives at the very highest levels of the company used U.S. banks and real estate to pay tens of millions of dollars in bribes to corrupt government officials in Brazil in order to obtain hundreds of millions of dollars in financing for the company and its affiliates. Today’s resolution demonstrates the department’s continuing commitment to combating international corruption and holding companies accountable for violations of the FCPA.”
J&F admitted to conspiring with others between 2005 and 2017 to violate the FCPA by paying bribes to government officials in Brazil in order to ensure that Brazilian state-owned and state-controlled banks would enter into debt and equity financing transactions with J&F and J&F-owned entities as well as to obtain approval for a merger from a Brazilian state-owned and state-controlled pension fund.
Specifically, DOJ said between 2005 and 2014, J&F engaged in a bribery scheme involving more than $148 million in corrupt payments that were promised and made to and for the benefit of high-level Brazilian government officials, including a then-high-ranking executive at the state-owned Banco Nacional (BNDES)
J&F was able to obtain hundreds of millions of dollars in financing from BNDES for the bribes. J&F also paid bribes worth more than $4.6 million to and for the benefit of a high-ranking executive of Fundação Petrobras de Seguridade Social, a state-controlled pension fund, in exchange for obtaining Petros’s approval of a merger benefiting J&F.
Also, J&F paid about $25 million in bribes to a high-ranking legislative official to secure hundreds of millions of dollars of financing from Caixa Econômica Federal, another Brazilian state-owned and state-controlled bank.
In addition to the DOJ-J&F agreement, it was also announced that JBS and the U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC) have settled with Pilgrim’s Pride Corp. for failure to maintain accurate books and records and internal accounting controls. JBS will pay $27 million to the SEC for a term of three years, during which extra government reporting will be required.
Pilgrim’s is not a party to the resolution and will not bear any liabilities arising from it, according to JBS.
“JBS and its controlling shareholder are committed to best corporate practices and close cooperation with authorities in all jurisdictions in which they operate. The agreements announced today represent an important step in their continuous efforts to improve their compliance and corporate governance programs,” said Guilherme Perboyre Cavalcanti with JBS investor relations.
Meanwhile, DOJ and Pilgrim’s have reached an agreement in the price-fixing case involving multiple defendants in federal court in Denver.
Pilgrim’s has repeatedly agreed to pay $110.5 million for the restraint of competition that affected three contracts for the sale of chicken products to one U.S. customer. The company said the agreement does not recommend a monitor, any restitution, or a probationary period and states that DOJ will bring no further charges against Pilgrim’s in the matter, provided that the company complies with the terms and provisions of the agreement.
“Pilgrim’s is committed to fair and honest competition in compliance with U.S. antitrust laws,” the company’s new chief executive officer Fabio Sandri said. “We are encouraged that today’s agreement concludes the Antitrust Division’s investigation into Pilgrim’s, providing certainty regarding this matter to our team members, suppliers, customers, and shareholders.”
Pilgrim’s named Sandri as CEO after Jayson Penn, the previous chief executive, was personally indicted in the price-fixing case.
The agreement will likely require approval by the Court.
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