In one of the largest U.S. securities class action lawsuit settlements ever, the Brazilian-based energy company Petrobras has agreed to settle the bribery and corruption-related securities class action lawsuit pending against the company in the Southern District of New York for $2.95 billion. The settlement, which is subject to court approval, resolves only the claims of Petrobras investors who purchased the company’s securities in the U.S.; it does not resolve the claims of investors who purchased Petrobras securities in Brazil.  The settlement resolves the case just before the U.S. Supreme Court was to consider whether to take up a cert petition in which the defendants sought to have the high court address class certification issues in the case. The company’s January 3, 2017 press release describing the settlement can be found here. The plaintiffs’ lawyers’ January 3, 2017 press release about the settlement can be found here.
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brazil flagThe massive Brazilian corruption scandal that began with an investigation of the state-owned oil company Petrobras and that has since spread both to other industries, including the construction industry, and to other Latin American countries, has now spread to an investigation of unsanitary practices and corruption in Brazil’s meatpacking industry. Among the Brazilian companies caught up in this latest scandal is JBS S.A., which is the world’s largest meat processing company. As has been the case with other companies caught up in Brazilian corruption scandal, JBS, whose Level 1 ADRs trade over-the-counter in the U.S., has now been hit with a follow-on securities class action lawsuit in the United States. This lawsuit is the latest in the string of lawsuits filed against companies from Brazil and elsewhere Latin America that have been hit with U.S. securities suits following news of their involvement in the burgeoning corruption scandal.
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granaThe massive Petrobras bribery scandal has long since spread beyond just the Brazilian petroleum company itself to encompass a number of different other companies. As I have previously noted on this blog, many of the Brazilian companies caught up in these investigations have been hit with securities class action lawsuits in the U.S. Among the companies caught up in the growing anti-corruption scandal is the Brazilian-based multinational construction company, Odebrecht. Investigations based on the Odebrecht scandal having now spread to companies in other Latin American countries, including, among others, Peru. As discussed below, plaintiffs’ lawyers have now filed a U.S. securities class action lawsuit against one of the Peruvian companies caught up in the Odebrecht scandal, showing that the potential fallout from the corruption investigation that began in Brazil now represents a significant liability risk exposure for companies and their executives throughout Latin America.
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brazilAs a result of scandals, investigations, and even an environmental catastrophe, there has been a wave of securities lawsuit filings in the U.S. against Brazilian-domiciled companies whose securities are listed in the U.S. This filing trend began in late 2014 with the first lawsuit filing against Petrobras and certain of its directors and officers, which was in turn followed by lawsuits against other companies caught up in the corruption scandal. In recent weeks lawsuits related to a separate regulatory investigation in Brazil have emerged, bringing the total number of securities lawsuits pending in the U.S. against Brazilian companies to six. These developments, along with events in Brazil itself, have roiled the D&O insurance marketplace in Brazil, particularly for Brazilian companies with securities listed in the U.S.
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petrobrasIn an interesting opinion addressing several of the critical issues in the U.S. securities lawsuit arising out of Petrobras bribery scandal, on July 30, 2015, Southern District of New York Judge Jed Rakoff denied in part and grated in part the defendants’ motions to dismiss. Among other things, Judge Rakoff rejected the company’s “adverse interest” argument, in which the company had tried to argue that the complicit corporate executives’ knowledge of the bribery scheme and consequent awareness of the misrepresentations of the company’s financial condition could not be attributed to the company. However, Judge Rakoff dismissed the claims asserted under Brazilian law on behalf of shareholders who purchased their Petrobras shares on the Bovespa, the São Paulo Stock exchange, ruling that these shareholders’ claims were subject to the mandatory arbitration clause in the company’s bylaws. A copy of Judge Rakoff’s opinion can be found here.
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