Construction company still banned from bidding on Petrobras contracts despite record settlement deal
By ROGERIO JELMAYER and SAMANTHA PEARSON
Updated Dec. 23, 2016 5:00 p.m. ET
SÃO PAULO—Brazilian oil company Petróleo Brasileiro SA, or Petrobras, plans to request part of the record anticorruption settlement that construction company Odebrecht SA signed earlier this week with Brazilian, U.S. and Swiss authorities.
Petrobras has said it was the victim of the vast bid-rigging and kickbacks scheme that Odebrecht admitted to helping run. Investigators say the graft ring, which included a group of builders, cost Brazilian taxpayers and Petrobras shareholders an estimated $13 billion.
After months of negotiations, Odebrecht agreed Wednesday to pay between $2.6 billion and $4.5 billion to Brazilian, U.S. and Swiss authorities over 23 years, according to the U.S. Department of Justice, which had brought suit against the firm under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.
“We’re looking for ways to reimburse shareholders and the [Brazilian] government,” Petrobras’s director of governance, risk management and compliance, João Elek, told The Wall Street Journal late Thursday. “Petrobras will make an effort to recover the part that’s fair.”
It is “extremely difficult” to calculate how much Petrobras should be entitled to, and the company has a team of people preparing to show authorities how the final value was reached, Mr. Elek added, saying Petrobras would soon send them the information.
The record settlement deal has reverberated across Latin America, where Odebrecht admitted to paying around $800 million in bribes since 2001 in 10 countries in the region, as well as in Angola and Mozambique.
Petrobras praised Wednesday’s deal as an “important step,” but Mr. Elek said the construction company won’t be allowed to do business with Petrobras until further conditions have been met.
WHERE ODEBRECHT PAID BRIBES
- Brazil: $349 million
- Angola: $50 million
- Argentina: $35 million
- Colombia: $11 million
- Dominican Republic: $92 million
- Ecuador: $33.5 million
- Guatemala: $18 million
- Mexico: $10.5 million
- Mozambique: $900,000
- Panama: $59 million
- Peru: $29 million
- Venezuela: $98 million
Source: Court documents
Odebrecht would have to prove it has introduced measures to guarantee it won’t engage in such practices in the future before Petrobras allows the construction company to bid again for contracts at the state-controlled oil company, Mr. Elek said without providing further details.
For much of the past decade, Brazil’s largest construction companies conspired with politicians and Petrobras executives to skim billions of dollars off inflated contracts, using the funds to get rich, buy the silence of those involved and finance political campaigns, according to Brazil’s authorities.
Brazil’s prosecutors and police have estimated Petrobras lost a total of 42 billion reais ($12.8 billion) in the scheme that cost the Rio de Janeiro-based company its investment-grade credit rating and helped turn it into the world’s most heavily indebted listed energy company.