The scope of the Petrobras corruption scandal is literally worldwide. It has touched every continent save Antarctica to-date, and who knows when it will reach those icy shores? For the European chief compliance officer or compliance practitioner whose company does business in Brazil, now is the time to get out ahead of the scandal.
At this point Rolls-Royce has become embroiled in what was dubbed Operation Car Wash because the investigation into corruption in the Brazilian national energy company literally started with a car wash. As reported in the Financial Times, the U.K. company, which is currently under investigation by the U.K. Serious Fraud Office around bribery allegations in Asia, has been “named in Brazilian documents early this year for allegedly paying bribes to secure a $100M contract for equipment for Petrobras oil rigs. A Petrobras official told Brazilian police he received a $200,000 bribe from Rolls-Royce.”
Earlier this year the Netherlands-based engineering company SBM Offshore was required to publicly deny allegations that it has agreed to a $1.7-billion settlement with Brazilian authorities in connection to the bribery scandal. SBM did admit that it is cooperating with Brazilian authorities in their investigations and that the company has engaged in some discussions around resolutions but that these discussions are at a preliminary stage and no fines or penalties have been agreed upon to close out the matter.
Swiss officials had previously announced they had found over 300 bank accounts of senior Petrobras officials and certain suppliers of the company. Bloomberg recently reported that Switzerland’s finance regulator, known as Finma, is investigating local Swiss banks to gauge their possible exposure to the ever-widening scandal. The Swiss regulator “is looking into whether banks and securities trading firms met their due-diligence obligations in possible cases of money laundering, and whether any possible incidents were reported to authorities.”
All of this is even before Brazilian authorities began to look at contracts awarded for the 2014 World Cup or the 2016 Olympics. If the Brazilian authorities can reach SBM Offshore and Rolls-Royce, they can reach any company that wants to do business in the country going forward. European compliance practitioners need to begin to look at all of their contracts in Brazil going back several years—it’s better to review sooner rather than later.