Earlier today, in federal court in Brooklyn, J&F Investimentos SA (J&F), a global conglomerate holding company based in Brazil and primarily involved in the meat and agriculture businesses, pleaded guilty to conspiring to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) and agreed to pay a criminal fine of more than $256 million. The charges arose from a scheme by J&F, through certain of its employees and agents, to pay millions of dollars in bribes to Brazilian government officials through, among other means, bank accounts based in New York. Today’s proceedings took place via video conference before United States District Judge Margo K. Brodie.
Seth D. DuCharme, Acting United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, Brian C. Rabbitt, Acting Assistant Attorney General of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, and James A. Dawson, Special Agent-in-Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Washington Field Office (FBI), announced the charges and guilty plea.
“Today’s resolution and guilty plea, including a $256 million fine, demonstrates our Office’s full commitment to holding accountable those entities that seek to gain an improper advantage over competitors by bribing foreign officials and using the U.S. financial system to carry out the crimes,” stated Acting United States Attorney DuCharme. “Protecting the integrity of the financial system is a core priority of the Department of Justice.”
“With today’s guilty plea, J&F has admitted to engaging in a long-running pattern of paying bribes to corrupt officials in Brazil to obtain financing and other benefits,” stated Acting Assistant Attorney General Rabbitt. “J&F’s corrupt conduct involved executives at the highest levels of the company using New York banks and real estate to carry out a scheme to pay millions of dollars in bribes to government officials in Brazil. Today’s resolution demonstrates the department’s continuing commitment to combating international corruption and holding companies accountable for violations of the FCPA.”
“No matter where it occurs, the FBI and our global partners are committed to diligently rooting out corruption which betrays public trust and threatens a fair economy,” stated FBI Special Agent-in-Charge Dawson. “Today’s plea demonstrates the FBI’s commitment to combatting foreign corruption reaching the U.S., and today’s actions send a strong message that we will not relent in our efforts to uphold the law and hold everyone accountable to play by the same, fair rules.”
According to the Statement of Facts stipulated to by J&F in connection with its guilty plea and other court documents, between approximately 2005 and 2017, J&F, through certain of its employees and agents, paid millions of dollars in bribes to, and for the benefit of, Brazilian government officials in order to obtain financing from two Brazilian state-owned and state-controlled banks and to obtain approval for a merger from a Brazilian state-owned and state-controlled pension fund. In furtherance of the scheme, J&F used New York-based bank accounts in the name of shell companies to make hundreds of millions of dollars in corrupt payments for the benefit of Brazilian officials.
Specifically, between approximately 2005 and 2014, using bank accounts based in New York, J&F caused more than $148 million in corrupt payments to be made for the benefit of a former high-ranking executive at Banco Nacional de Desenvolvimento Econômico e Social (BNDES), a Brazilian state-owned bank. The bribe payments were made for the benefit of the former BNDES executive, who later during the bribery scheme served as a high-ranking official in the executive branch of the Brazilian government, for the purpose of ensuring that BNDES would enter into certain financing and equity transactions with J&F-related entities.
In addition, between approximately 2011 and 2017, J&F caused approximately $4.6 million in corrupt payments to be made, and items of value to be transferred, for the benefit of a high-ranking executive at Petrobras de Seguridade Social (Petros), a Brazilian state-owned pension fund. The bribes were paid through, among other things, the purchase of an apartment in New York for the high-ranking Petros executive. The bribe payments were made to ensure that Petros approved a merger involving a J&F-related entity.
Finally, between 2011 and 2014, J&F caused approximately $25 million in corrupt payments to be made for the benefit of a former high-ranking official in the legislative branch of the Brazilian government. The bribes were paid for the purpose of ensuring that Caixa Econômica Federal, a Brazilian state-owned bank, entered into certain transactions with J&F-related entities.
The government reached this resolution with J&F based on a number of factors, including J&F’s failure to voluntarily disclose the conduct to the government, and the nature, seriousness and pervasiveness of the offense, which included executives at the highest levels of the company and the payment of millions of dollars in bribes to high-level government officials in Brazil over multiple years. The criminal monetary penalty for J&F reflects a 10 percent reduction off the bottom of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines fine range because J&F received partial credit for its remediation and cooperation with the government’s investigation.
In a related matter with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) announced today, a J&F majority-owned subsidiary, JBS S.A., agreed to pay the SEC disgorgement and prejudgment interest totaling approximately $26,866,565.
J&F previously entered into a resolution with the Ministério Público Federal (Public Prosecutor’s Office) in Brazil relating to the same conduct described in the Statement of Facts. The United States will credit approximately $128 million of the fine J&F pays to the Brazilian authorities toward payment of the criminal fine in this case.
The investigation is being conducted by the FBI’s International Corruption Unit in Washington, D.C. The government’s case is being handled by the Office’s Business and Securities Fraud Section and the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section. Assistant United States Attorney David Gopstein of the Eastern District of New York and Fraud Section Trial Attorneys Michael Culhane Harper and Joseph S. McFarlane are prosecuting the case.
The government of Brazil provided significant assistance in this matter, as did the Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs.
J&F INVESTIMENTOS SA
E.D.N.Y. Docket No. 20-CR-365