Investors seek ruling against Petrobras in corruption lawsuit

Investors suing Brazil’s state-run oil firm Petrobras to recoup billions of dollars in losses argued on Tuesday that the arrests and plea deals of top company executives prove that it knew of a massive bribery and political kickback scheme.

Lawyers for the investors asked U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff in Manhattan to rule, ahead of a trial set for Sept. 19, on claims that the company violated U.S. securities laws, according to a court filing.

Petrobras, whose formal name is Petroleo Brasileiro SA, and its attorneys did not immediately respond to requests for comment. But the company has claimed it was a victim of a fraud orchestrated by a handful of executives, outside contractors and politicians.

Prosecutors in Brazil have said more than $2 billion of bribes were paid over a decade to Petrobras executives by construction and engineering companies to win lucrative contracts. The scandal, which has engulfed Brazil’s political class, has contributed to a plunge in the oil company’s market value.

Giant offshore discoveries helped drive Petrobras’ value to as high as $290 billion in 2008. It sold about $70 billion of new stock in 2010. Today Petrobras is worth about $41 billion.

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