Brazil’s Petrobras Trial Date Set, As U.S. Pension Funds Seek ‘Tens of Billions’ In Losses

Kenneth Rapoza – Forbes, 05/26/2016

Brazil’s oil company Petrobras will finally get its day in a U.S. court on Sept. 19 in a trial that pits 18 former executives and 13 investment banks, including J.P. Morgan Securities, against U.S. and U.K. investors. Claimants are seeking “tens of billions of dollars” in losses.

The company is the centerpiece in what has become Brazil’s crime of the century. The scandal involving contract rigging, bribery and money laundering recently brought down a sitting president and promises to devour a chunk of Brazil’s career politicians in criminal probes.

“We are seeking multiple tens of billions of dollars,” says lead counsel Jeremy Lieberman of Pomerantz, the New York law firm leading the charge against Petrobras. “Not only are we challenging company statements on how it engaged in this bribery scheme and inflated its assets, we are saying that Petrobras’ claim that it lost about $2.5 billion to fraud is wrong. It’s a whole lot more than that.”

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Brazil’s new government may be less likely to protect the Amazon, critics say

Dom Phillips and Nick Miroff – The Washington Post, 05/22/2016

Signs of a rightward turn by Brazil’s new government have alarmed conservationists and climate change activists who fear a rollback of environmental laws that could accelerate deforestation in the Amazon basin.

With Brazil’s economy in its worst slump since the 1930s, new leader Michel Temer took power this month promising a more business-friendly agenda to spur growth. Temer named a ­conservative-leaning cabinet whose members include figures with close ties to powerful landowners and agribusiness companies.

Temer has taken control in South America’s largest nation — and the world’s biggest rain forest — at a time when Brazilian lawmakers are considering a major overhaul of environmental laws. This includes a controversial constitutional amendment known as PEC 65 that would reduce licensing requirements for development projects and limit judicial oversight of their impact.

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From the favelas: the rise of rooftop solar projects in Brazil

Heriberto Araújo – The Guardian, 05/24/2016

Sunny days have long been considered a competitive advantage for Brazil. Before the 2014 World Cup, the country’s tourist board set up a website allowing visitors to compare the number of sunny days in US and European capitals to cities in Brazil (eg Brussels 103, Rio de Janeiro 212). But while tourism may have been capitalising on the sunshine, the solar industry has not.

According to statistics from the Brazilian electricity regulatory agency, Aneel, solar accounts for just 0.02% of the country’s energy. The bulk of the country’s energy generation (70%) is from hydropower.

However, while demand for energy is increasing, multi-year droughts andwidespread blackouts have created serious concerns about energy security for millions of businesses and homes. Despite a traditional lack of support (unlike Europe, China and the US, Brazil has not implemented feed-in tariffs or tax breaks), the government is now making efforts to diversify (pdf) the country’s energy mix with recent public auctions for solar and wind. Its 10-year energy plan released in 2014 estimates that 7GW of solar projects will be installed by 2024, making up 3.3% of Brazil’s energy mix.

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Petrobras boomtown turns desolate as refinery’s billions vanish

Sabrina Valle and Carlos Caminada – Yahoo Business, 05/04/2016

Located just 30 miles east of Rio de Janeiro’s bustling Copacabana beach, Itaborai looks like many oil boomtowns after the bust — except the deserted stores and empty glass towers that loom over this town of 220,000 speak of some bigger cataclysm than the collapse of crude prices.

“They said this would be the new oil city,” says Jefferson Costa, one of scores of migrants from Brazil’s impoverished north lured here by a multibillion-dollar petrochemical project that was supposed to create more than 100,000 jobs. Work on the complex, known as Comperj, has stopped, and unless new investors materialize, the single refinery now standing may never produce a single drop of fuel. “It’s empty inside,” says Costa, a plumber who lost his job six months ago when construction came to a halt. “People say it will become a large warehouse.”

Comperj has become a symbol of pervasive corruption at Brazil’s state-run oil producer, Petrobras. A sprawling investigation by federal police and prosecutors dubbed Operation Carwash has revealed massive graft, implicating construction conglomerates, banks, oil service providers, shipbuilders and politicians. About 2 percentage points of the 3.8 percent contraction in Brazil’s gross domestic product last year can be attributed to the effects of the scandal on the company and its suppliers, according to estimates from Tendencias, a consulting firm based in Sao Paulo.

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BHP Billiton investors sue in U.S. over Brazil dam disaster

Jonathan Stempel – Reuters, 02/25/2016

BHP Billiton Ltd was sued in the United States by investors who accused the Anglo-Australian mining company of fraudulently overstating its ability to manage safety risks prior to November’s fatal dam burst at a Brazilian mine it co-owned and operated.

In a complaint filed on Wednesday in the U.S. District Court in Manhattan, investors led by the Jackson County Employees’ Retirement System in Michigan said BHP inflated the price of its American depositary receipts by ignoring safety risks and overstating its commitment to safety before the disaster.

Four BHP officials were also sued, including Chief ExecutiveAndrew Mackenzie and Chairman Jac Nasser.

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Brazilian Studies Aim to Unravel Zika’s Link to Birth Defect

Julie Steenhuysen – Reuters, 02/09/2016

At Roberto Santos General Hospital in Salvador, Brazil, Dr. Antonio Almeida and a team of specialists are closely following two groups of women: Those who deliver babies with abnormally small heads and those who deliver apparently normal babies.

The hospital is one of three in this city on Brazil’s eastern coast where investigators are studying the most urgent question of the Zika outbreak: Is the virus causing a spike in birth defects, and, if so, how great is the risk?

The answer will help shape the response to the rapid spread of Zika throughout the Americas. Concerns over the potential link to microcephaly have prompted a U.S. alert advising pregnant women against travel to 31 countries and territories with outbreaks.

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