A U.S. federal judge on Wednesday named a trustee of a British pension fund as the lead plaintiff in a class-action lawsuit against Brazil's state-run oil company Petrobras and its top executives.
Universities Superannuation Scheme Ltd (USS) will represent people and companies that bought U.S.-listed securities in Petrobras, as the oil company is known. A corruption scheme has helped wiped about 90 billion dollars of the value of the company in six months.
The judge also named the law firm of Pomerantz LLP in New York as the lead counsel and ordered lawyers for both side to contact the court on March 6 to schedule further proceedings.
More than three-dozen Brazilian executives have been indicted in Brazil in a case that prosecutors say involved price-fixing, bribery and political kickbacks. On Tuesday the country's top prosecutor asked the Supreme Court to open investigations into an additional 54 people, many expected to be sitting politicians.
The case is expected to be the largest ever corruption case in Brazil.
The lawsuit, filed in the Southern District of New York on Dec. 8, alleges that Petrobras made false statements and engaged in a multibillion dollar money-laundering and bribery scheme since 2006.
U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff chose USS from among four final candidates. These were the Skagen-Danske group of three European asset management companies, Danske Invest Management AS, and Danske Invest Management Co., both part of the Danske Bank Group and Skagen AS; the State Retirement Systems group, representing the public-employee retirement funds of Ohio, Idaho and Hawaii; USS; and Daniela Freitas Da Silva, an individual investor.
The original action was filed by New York law firm Wolf Popper LLP.
According to a piece from Bloomberg which tried to understand the puzzle behind the collapse of Petrobras, which has succumbed to top scale corruption and money-laundering, the government managed company has a potential write down of 30bn dollars, and its release or not, was the core of a long heated debate between two positions.
On the one side former Finance minister and Petrobras chairman Guido Mantega who allegedly believed the huge number discovered by the company's auditors was the result of a faulty methodology in the estimation process, and could have a devastating impac.
However the former CEO, Maria das Gracas Foster, appointed by Dilma Rousseff three years before, got in touch with the president and reported that in her opinion under Brazilian law the 30bn figure, faulty or not, must be disclosed in the much delayed third-quarter earnings report.
However president Rousseff opted for the Mantega option forcing Foster to step down, and a month ago Ms Foster was replaced with Aldemir Bendine, CEO of state-run Banco do Brasil SA.