The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Trust filed a lawsuit last week in New York against Petrobras and its auditor, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC).
The Gates Foundation is seeking “unspecified damages” related to the Trust’s investment in Petrobras, the Brazilian government-run company where a massive money laundering case was first exposed about a year ago and continues to unravel today. Earlier this year Petrobras disclosed that the company lost $2 billion just in bribes and that it lied about its balance sheet.
The depth and breadth of the fraud within Petrobras is astounding. By Petrobras’s own admission, the kickback scheme infected over $80bn of its contracts, representing one-third of its total assets,” the suit alleged.
Equally breathtaking is that the fraud went on for years under PwC’s watch, who repeatedly endorsed the integrity of Petrobras’ internal controls and financial reports. This is a case of institutional corruption, criminal conspiracy and a massive fraud on the investing public.
The foundation says that PwC knew about Petrobras’ money laundering but looked the other way.
“This case arises from a pervasive bribery and money laundering scheme carried out by Petrobras and wilfully ignored by PwC,” Kenneth Warner, the lead attorney representing the Gates Foundation, wrote in the complaint.
The Gates Foundation is a co-plaintiff with the WGI Emerging Market Fund.
Gates’ Foundation is just one of many investors in the United States to file lawsuits against Petrobras over its stock. The city of Providence, R.I., sued Petrobras for $98 billion last December alleging it had lost money it had invested in the company moved here.
Several Petrobras officials have already been sentenced to jail for money laundering and accepting or dolling out bribes. The scale of the scandal, both the number of executives and politicians involved and the dollar amount, have shaken the nation to its roots.