Home Economy Brazilian President Lula da Silva Locks Horns with Brazil’s Richest Man, Jorge Paulo Lemann

Brazilian President Lula da Silva Locks Horns with Brazil’s Richest Man, Jorge Paulo Lemann



In a uncommon flip up for the books, the top of state of Latin America’s largest financial system simply accused the nation’s richest billionaire of participating in blatant accounting fraud.

In an interview with Rede TV! final Thursday (Feb 2), Brazil’s just lately reelected President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, popularly referred to as Lula, laid into Brazil’s richest man, Jorge Paulo Lemann, accusing him of participating in fraud. Collectively together with his companions on the Brazilian-US funding agency 3G Capital, Lemann is among the largest shareholders of nationwide retailer Americanas, which just lately declared chapter following the “discovery” of 20 billion actual (US$ 3.87 billion) of accounting “inconsistencies”.

Lemann is a Brazilian funding banker, businessman and modern-day “philanthropist” with twin Brazilian and Swiss citizenship. His wealth is basically tied up within the funding fund he co-founded, 3G Capital, whose holdings embrace family manufacturers comparable to Burger King, Kraft Heinz and Anheuser-Busch Inbe, the world’s largest beer firm. 3G Capital can also be shut companions with Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway. However the sudden collapse of Americanas is doing severe harm to Lemann and his companions’ repute, says Lula:

“He was bought because the epitome of the profitable businessman on planet Earth. He was the man who funded younger individuals to check at Harvard with a view to getting into future governments. He was a man who spoke out in opposition to corruption day-after-day. After which he commits a fraud that might value R$40 billion (USD7.76 billion).”

Brazil’s Worst Ever Company Scandal?

Lula was rounding down; Americanas’ complete debt is definitely R$43 billion (USD 8.35 billion). The corporate is at the moment present process judicial overview after submitting for chapter 15 chapter within the US in late January. With shareholders and collectors gazing large losses, hundreds of suppliers holding billions of {dollars} of unpaid payments and tens of hundreds of staff presumably going through the axe, the blame recreation is now in full swing for what some are calling Brazil’s worst ever company scandal.

Lula in contrast Lemann to Eike Batista, the mining magnate who was previously Brazil’s richest man earlier than struggling a vertiginous fall from grace a decade in the past. Between March 2012 and January 2014, Batista’s wealth plunged by over 100%, from a peak internet price of $32 billion to a detrimental internet price. In 2018, he was sentenced to 30 years’ imprisonment for bribing former Rio de Janeiro governor Sergio Cabral with the aim of acquiring state authorities contracts.

Lula additionally lambasted the “monetary markets” for his or her rank hypocrisy:

 [W]hat I get upset about is the next. Any phrase you say on [social spending], any phrase, the market will get nervous, the market will get very offended. And now considered one of their very own plunders BRL 40 billion from an organization that gave the impression to be the healthiest on the planet and the market says nothing, it stays silent.

Lula isn’t the one main participant in Brazil that’s blaming Americanas’ collapse on Lemann and two of his companions at 3G Capital (which has no involvement with Americanas), Marcel Telles and Carlos Alberto Sicupira, who’re respectively Brazil’s third and fourth richest billionaires. The truth is, that is a type of uncommon events the place the tremendous wealthy have begun turning on one another in essentially the most public of the way.

Banks Towards Billionaires

André Esteves is Brazil’s seventh richest particular person. He’s additionally a serious shareholder of Brazilian lender BTG Pactual, considered one of Americanas’ largest collectors. And BTG just lately referred to as the Americanas case “the most important company fraud within the nation’s historical past”. Because the FT put it, Americanas’ “mysterious” monetary gap “has pitted banks in opposition to billionaires.”

In an try to overturn a part of Americanas’ safety from collectors, BTG’s attorneys described the case as “the unhappy embodiment of a rustic”:

The three richest males (with property valued at 180 billion actual), anointed as some kind of demigods of ‘good’ international capitalism, are caught with their arms within the until of what, since 1982, has been considered one of their main firms.

Different main collectors embrace Deutsche Financial institution, with complete publicity of round $1 billion; Bradesco, Brazil’s second largest financial institution by property ($925 million); Banco Santander SA’s Brazil unit ($715 million); Itau Unibanco Holding SA ($560 million), Banco Safra SA ($480 million) and Banco do Brasil SA ($270 million). Each Deutsche Financial institution and Safra have questioned the veracity of the information offered by Americanas.

However one factor that’s past doubt is that fraud was dedicated, says Daniel Gerner, a lawyer representing 20 minority shareholders in Americanas. “The fraud was malicious. It was a process orchestrated and accepted by all concerned and which generated implausible income for the distribution of bonuses for years.”

There are nonetheless a whole lot of unknowns about the reason for Americanas’ collapse. What is identified is that the $3.9 billion of accounting inconsistencies have been a direct results of “provider financing operations” that weren’t adequately mirrored in its accounting.

Right here’s the way it in all probability went down. Little by little Americanas started paying its suppliers later and later. After some time, a rising assortment of banks and different monetary intermediaries started providing to pay Americanas’ suppliers upfront, at a cost. Americanas would then be answerable for the compensation of those loans, together with curiosity fundsThe quantity it owed would steadily develop, however the execs didn’t need to disclose the cash as debt, which meant they may maintain reporting good juicy income and pocketing their bonuses. Till the monetary gap on Americanas’ books was out of the blue too huge to cover or fill.

One of many favorite administration books of 3G co-founder Marcel Telles is Bob Fifer’s 1993 bestseller, Double Your Earnings in Six Months or Much less. The e-book’s chapter on accounts payable features a suggestion to place off paying your organization’s suppliers for so long as feasibly potential. As some pundits are actually speculating, Telles and his associates seem to have taken Fifer’s recommendation to absolutely the restrict, whereas utilizing provide chain finance to cover the rising debt pile for so long as potential.

Conspicuous Silence

That is the largest drawback with (and most necessary attraction of) provide chain finance: the debt is normally not disclosed, which implies that traders, collectors and regulators do not know how a lot debt an organization is definitely carrying, till it’s too late. It additionally implies that traders and collectors find yourself bearing a lot bigger losses when the corporate lastly — and infrequently very out of the blue — collapses, as has already occurred with Abengoa, which defaulted on its debt for the primary time in 2015, Carillion (2018), NMC Well being (2020) and now Americanas.

Lemann, Telles and Sicupira remained silent on the problem, even days after Americanas filed for chapter safety. However the males lastly revealed a notice claiming they’d no concept of the accounting irregularities on the firm and would by no means give their blessing to such practices.

Additionally they mentioned that the retailer had employed considered one of “essentially the most revered unbiased auditing companies on this planet, PwC,” as if that have been some sort of protection. As I famous in my Jan 13 put up, One other Provide Chain Finance-Enabled Disaster Hits, This Time in Brazil, each high-profile enterprise collapse induced (or no less than exacerbated) by provide chain finance points has one factor in widespread: the auditors have failed to identify (or no less than report) any of the obvious irregularities, till it’s too late.

Additionally, Lemann, Telles and Sicupira have a storied historical past of bending or breaking the foundations and norms of enterprise and accounting practices, and never simply in Brazil. In 2005, they have been “accused of abusing management energy after distorting the goals of their beverage firm Ambev’s inventory possibility plan,” mentioned BTG’s attorneys. The three fund managers have been “additionally accused, as administrators of Ambev, of getting violated their fiduciary duties to the corporate.”

In 2015, 3G Capital teamed up with Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway to deliver in regards to the merger of Kraft with Heinz. The ensuing firm — the fifth largest within the international meals and beverage sector — has been plagued with accounting points. Crucial was a mind-watering $15.4 billion impairment cost in 2019 — the consequence of a $7.1 billion goodwill impairment within the US Refrigerated and Canada Retail unit and an $8.3 billion impairment associated to intangible property belonging to Kraft and Oscar Mayer. Within the aftermath, Kraft Heinz posted a $12.6 billion loss after taxes.

As The Economist warned on the time, 3G’s “extensively admired” enterprise mannequin of “shopping for venerable companies and utilizing debt and surgical cost-cuts to spice up their monetary returns” was starting to seem like a fiasco. At the moment, 3G-owned companies owed no less than $150 billion. There was, the article famous, a “queasy sense that 3G’s method of dealmaking, squeezing prices and heavy money owed, will be discovered at an alarming variety of different companies.”

That’s already clearly the case with Americanas. Issues are actually rising that comparable issues might additionally have an effect on Ambev and Eletrobrás, Brazil’s electrical utility in whose controversial privatization each Lemann and PwC allegedly performed a key function.

Final week, reviews surfaced suggesting that Ambev might owe billions of actual in native taxes. The Brazilian Beer Trade Affiliation (CervBrasil), which represents smaller producers than Ambev, has accused the corporate of accumulating 30 billion actual ($5.9 billion) of tax credit that it’s not entitled to, enabling it to make extra revenue by embezzling the treasury. Because the director of the affiliation notes, whereas the case of Americanas includes a multi-billion greenback debt with banks and suppliers, within the case of Ambev the debt can be with federal, state and municipal authorities.

The Nationwide Collective of Electricians (CNE, in Portuguese) has warned that Eletrobrás, which generates roughly one-third of all of Brazil’s electrical energy, is also in danger. From Brasil de Fato (machine translated):

Final yr, the corporate was privatized by the federal government of former President Jair Bolsonaro (Liberal Celebration). Lemann’s 3G Capital took 10 p.c of the corporate’s most popular inventory…

In response to CNE, Lemann and his companions have been those who pushed for the privatization of the previous state-owned firm. They put in Wilson Ferreira junior within the presidency of Eletrobrás and name the pictures on the firm to this present day. “Lemann’s 3G group put Elvira Presta as CFO of Eletrobrás throughout Themer’s presidential time period with a view to making ready the corporate to be privatized,” reads a report by CNE.

“Lemann’s 3G group is a company leech: it acquires wholesome firms which have consolidated their place out there, cuts bills to their limits, and will increase revenue margins on the expense of competitiveness till firms turn out to be bankrupt. However by then, the house owners of 3G have already multiplied their low funding,” CNE added.

However now the highlight of scrutiny is as soon as once more on 3G’s enterprise practices. With President Lula now becoming a member of the fracas and high Brazilian banks threatening to go after private property belonging to Lemann, Telles and Sicupira, the stress on the three billionaires to achieve a negotiated settlement with Americanas’ collectors is rising.

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