Petrobras says it's the victim as investor bribery suits mount
[NEW YORK] Petroleo Brasileiro SA faces a mounting number of US investor lawsuits that seek compensation for market losses tied to a multibillion-dollar bribery scheme.
Cases against the energy giant multiplied in recent weeks to more than a dozen, as investors from Ohio to Denmark seek damages for a kickback scandal that helped knock US$60 billion off its stock value. As it nears an American court hearing on the fate of those claims, the Brazilian company has posited a novel defense: It's a victim, too.
Petrobras says it was hoodwinked by a few employees who helped construction firms bribe local politicians in a bid to obtain Petrobras contracts, which included the cost of the graft. Petrobras asked a US judge to throw out the suits, in part because it didn't pay bribes, didn't know contractors were overcharging it and lost much less than investors claim.
"'Nothing went through Petrobras,'" lawyers for the company said, quoting a former refining chief convicted of helping facilitate the bribes. Petrobras blamed a "criminal cartel" of Brazil's largest construction and engineering firms.