Petrobras CFO, bank, pension fund fined for stifling shareholders

miércoles 3 de diciembre de 2014 14:28 GYT

By Brad Haynes

SAO PAULO Dec 3 (Reuters) - The chief financial officer of Brazil's Petroleo Brasileiro SA has agreed to a fine for stifling the influence of minority shareholders, the country's securities regulator said, as corruption allegations swirl around the state-run oil company.

Securities watchdog CVM said on Wednesday that by letting state development bank BNDES and state-led pension funds vote on supposedly independent board members, Petrobras CFO Almir Barbassa hindered private shareholders' right to representation.

Without admitting to any wrongdoing, Barbassa agreed to pay a fine of 250,000 reais ($98,000), CVM said, while BNDES and its subsidiary BNDESPAR each agreed to pay 500,000 reais.

Petros, the pension fund for Petrobras workers, also faces a fine of 400,000 reais and the CVM said it warned two other pension funds for their conduct.

The ruling underscored concerns about corporate governance at Petrobras, which is under investigation by prosecutors for an alleged graft scheme in which contractors overcharged for projects in return for kickbacks to political parties and Petrobras executives.

The case is sharpening Brazilian political divisions only weeks after President Dilma Rousseff won re-election in the country's closest vote in decades. Rousseff, chair of Petrobras' board of directors from 2003 to 2010, when many of the alleged bribes and kickbacks happened, has denied involvement in the corruption scheme.

At a Congressional hearing on Tuesday, a former executive who helped to uncover the bribery and kickbacks said political parties have dominated the appointment of senior management at Petrobras for years, highlighting the need for independent oversight.

While the pension funds holding shares in Petrobras belong to workers at state-run companies, the government holds sway with their management, which is chosen by unions with political ties.

Separately Petrobras' former director of corporate services, Renato Duque, who was arrested last month in the investigation, was released from jail but forced to surrender his passport.

($1 = 2.56 Brazilian reais) (Additional reporting by Aluisio Alves and Caroline Stauffer; Editing by Alan Crosby)