SEC Declines FCPA Action for Brookfield in Brazil

The SEC has declined to proceed with an enforcement action after an investigation into allegations of bribery by employees of Brookfield Asset Management’s Brazil subsidiary, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The investigation centered around allegations that employees of the Brazilian subsidiary hired an armored truck to deliver 1.28 million reais to two officials in Sao Paulo to speed permit approval of a shopping mall. If converted to U.S. dollars, the amount would have been approximately $640,000.

The SEC reportedly interviewed a former executive of the company in connection with the investigation. The former executives allegations led to a Sao Paulo prosecutor filing civil charges against the Brazilian subsidiary. It is unknown whether he had filed a whistleblower tip under the Dodd-Frank program.

The Wall Street Journal article is currently behind a paywall, but it seems likely that the SEC investigation discovered that the incident was no more than a one time action and the company had adequate safeguards in place to deter other incidents from happening.

After reading the article, the company reported that the independent investigation produced by a law firm it hired found no evidence of wrongdoing. Of course, in light of the information revealed in the whistleblower retaliation lawsuit filed against Bio-Rad, perhaps the report should be viewed suspiciously. The Bio-Rad whistleblower in that case alleged that there was substantial evidence of misconduct in China which that law firm ignored in its investigation.

Brookfield is one of the largest property investors in the world with over $200 billion in assets under management. The company started more than 100 years ago as an operator of electricity and transportation infrastructure in Brazil. It is currently headquartered in Toronto, Canada with more than 100 offices in 20 different countries. It is listed on the New York Stock Exchange under the stock symbol BAM.

Real estate permits and approvals have been a bit of a hot area for potential FCPA actions recently. WalMart has spent hundreds of millions of dollars to investigate reports it bribed government officials in Mexico (and other countries) in connection with securing real estate locations (and other measures). Leaked information from the DOJ investigation suggests that there was misconduct in India, although not to the extent that commentators had speculated based on media reports and the amount spent by the company.

Brazil has specifically been a hot area for whistleblowing and corruption recently. Potential billion dollar corruption scandals have been publicly exposed concerning both Petrobras, the state run oil company, and government tax collections. There have also been other FCPA investigations in connection with infrastructure improvements made in connection with the country’s hosting of the World Cup and Olympics.

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