Acting Assistant Attorney General Nicole M. Argentieri Delivers Keynote Address at the 40th International Conference on the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act
J&F Investimentos S.A. (J&F), a Brazil-based investment company that owns and controls companies involved in multiple industries, including the meat and agriculture industry, has agreed to pay a criminal monetary penalty of $256,497,026 to resolve the department’s investigation into violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA). The resolution arises out of J&F’s scheme to pay millions of dollars in bribes to government officials in Brazil in exchange for obtaining financing and other benefits for J&F and J&F-owned entities.
J&F pleaded guilty and entered into a cooperation plea agreement with the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York in connection with a criminal information filed today in the Eastern District of New York charging J&F with one count of conspiracy to violate the anti-bribery provisions of the FCPA.
“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 Acting Assistant Attorney General Brian C. Rabbitt of the Justice Department’s 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.”
“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,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Seth D. DuCharme for the Eastern District of New York. “Protecting the integrity of the financial system is a core priority of the Department of Justice.”
“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,” said Special Agent in Charge James A. Dawson of the FBI Washington Field Office Criminal Division. “Today’s plea demonstrates the FBI’s commitment to combatting foreign corruption reaching the United States, 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 admissions by J&F, between 2005 and 2017, the company conspired with others 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, 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 Banco Nacional de Desenvolvimento Econômico e Social (BNDES), a Brazilian state-owned and state-controlled bank. In exchange for the bribe payments, J&F was able to obtain hundreds of millions of dollars in financing from BNDES. In addition, J&F paid bribes worth more than $4.6 million to and for the benefit of a high-ranking executive of Fundação Petrobras de Seguridade Social (Petros), a Brazilian state-controlled pension fund in exchange for obtaining Petros’s approval for a significant merger that benefited J&F. J&F also paid approximately $25 million in bribes to a high-ranking official in the legislative branch of the Brazilian government in order to secure hundreds of millions of dollars of financing from Caixa Econômica Federal (Caixa), a Brazilian state-owned and state-controlled bank.
In furtherance of the bribery scheme, among other things, J&F executives used New York-based bank accounts to facilitate the bribery scheme and to make corrupt payments, purchased and transferred a Manhattan apartment as a bribe, and met in the United States to discuss and further aspects of the illegal scheme.
As part of the plea agreement, for a three-year period, J&F agreed to continue to cooperate with the U.S. government in any ongoing or future criminal investigations concerning J&F, its executives, employees, or agents; enhance its compliance program; and report to the government on the implementation of its enhanced compliance program.
The department reached this resolution with J&F based on a number of factors, including the company’s failure to voluntarily disclose the conduct to the department and the nature, seriousness, and pervasiveness of the offense, which included executives at the highest levels of the company and the payment of tens of millions of dollars in bribes to high-level government officials in Brazil over a period of 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 department’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 that forms the basis of J&F’s plea agreement announced today. Pursuant to the Brazilian resolution, J&F agreed to pay a fine of BRL 8,000,000,000 (the approximate equivalent of $1,441,505,636) and to contribute BRL 2,300,000,000 (the approximate equivalent of $414,432,870) to social projects in Brazil. Under the J&F plea agreement announced today, the Fraud Section and the Eastern District of New York will credit up to 50 percent ($128,248,513) of the criminal penalty owed to the United States to payments J&F makes pursuant to the resolution with the Brazilian authorities. The department determined that partial crediting was appropriate based on the specific facts and circumstances of this case in light of, among other things, the company’s prior efforts to coordinate with the department and Brazilian authorities.
The FBI’s Washington Field Office investigated the case. Trial Attorneys Michael Culhane Harper and Joseph McFarlane of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney David Gopstein of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York are prosecuting the case. The Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs of the Department’s Criminal Division provided valuable assistance in this matter.
The Fraud Section is responsible for investigating and prosecuting all FCPA matters. Additional information about the Justice Department’s FCPA enforcement efforts can be found at www.justice.gov/criminal-fraud/foreign-corrupt-practices-act.