Some U.S. cattle ranchers are seeing an opportunity in the way JBS Corp. has gotten itself tied up in Brazil’s political scandal. JBS USA is the wholly owned subsdiary of JBS S.A., the Brazilian corporation that is the world’s largest fresh beef and pork processor with sales of $52.3 billion in 2016,
The cattlemen are asking for a U.S. Department of Justice investigation into JBS’s cattle procurement practices, saying the company’s “business model relied heaily on unlawful and othe corrupt practices to influence government actions and policies as well as to influence decisions by government regulated entities…”
The request was made this past week in an 11-page letter from the Billings, MT-based R-CALF United Stockgrowers of America. It was sent to President Trump, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Grassley, Attorney General Jeff Session, and Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue.
The letter, signed by R-CALF CEO Bill Bullard, urges the government to “reject any type of leniency” with JBS. It further calls for review of previous decisions that favored JBS in DOJ antitrust reviews. JBS acquired most of its beef processing assets in North American by purchasing Swift in 2007, the Smithfield Beef Group and Five Rivers Cattle Feeding in 2008, and Pilgrim’s Pride in 2009.
A DOJ investigation of its U.S. activities would add to the JBS management, financial, and image crisis that’s been boiling over for the last month since former JBS Chairman Joesley Batista turned a tape recording over to authorities that sounded as if Brazil’s President Michel Temer was endorsing the payment of bribes and hush money to inspectors and others.
Batista resigned as JBS Chairman and from its Board of Directors. Temer remains as President of Brazil after the nation’s top electoral court Friday dismissed his removal from office by a 4-3 vote.
Also on Friday, JBS Corp. announced the sale of its operations in Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay to South American rival Minera Corp. for $300 million. The transaction is expected to close next month.
The sale was likely in reaction to pressure by creditor banks on JBS, which has a net debt of around $14.6 billion. JBS USA assets, including Pilgrim’s Pride, are other potential sources of cash. Pilgrim’s Pride has about a 20 percent share of the U.S. poultry market.
Also on Friday, Brazil’s Federal Police conducted a search and seizure operation at the headquarters of JBS S.A. and an associated company. Four unnamed people were detained for questioning about potential insider trading.
Both JBS Corp. and J&F Investments, owned by the Batista brothers, previously entered into so-called leniency agreements with federal prosecutors. JBS agreed to pay a fine of $183.8 million, while J&F agreed to pay $3.2 billion over 25 years. The J&F “leniency” fine is said to be the largest in Brazil’s history and represents bribes and kickbacks to 1,829 Brazilian politicians.
The fines between JBS and J&F were structured to protect JBS minority shareholders. The Batista brothers admitted bribing nearly 1,900 politicians, including Temer and his two predecessors.