* Cases against executives may be judged this year
* PricewaterhouseCoopers, KPMG facing probe -CVM chief
* Brazil regulator has 10 open cases involving Petrobras
By Juliana Schincariol
RIO DE JANEIRO, Jan 18 (Reuters) - Brazil’s securities regulator CVM is investigating 10 complaints that state-led oil company Petrobras, its auditors, and former company executives misled investors, several of which could result in judgments this year, the CVM president said.
The cases, which carry administrative but not criminal penalties, come after shares in Petroleo Brasileiro SA , as Petrobras is formally known, lost two-thirds of their value in three years. CVM punishments include fines or bans on corporate or market activity.
Two complaints have moved to the sanctions phase, CVM President Leonardo Pereira told Reuters. The decisions, when they come, could influence investigations and lawsuits in the United States, where Petrobras may face a record fines of $1.6 billion or more.
One case is against former board members, including ex-chairman Guido Mantega, a former finance minister; Luciano Coutinho, chief executive of Brazil’s state-development bank BNDES; and Miriam Belchior, planning minister and CEO of Caixa Economica Federal.
The board allegedly misled investors by approving a 2014-2018 investment plan with debt-reduction targets incompatible with their approval of a fuel-pricing policy. That policy saddled its refining unit with losses to pay fuel subsidies in Brazil.
The second case nearing judgment is against former Chief Financial Officer Almir Barbasa for allegedly misleading investors over Petrobras fuel-pricing.
Eight other Petrobras cases are under CVM investigation. They include probes of PricewaterhouseCoopers and KPMG, the current and previous Petrobras auditors. The CVM is also moving ahead with cases related to Brazilian tycoon Eike Batista’s EBX Group.
“We are not stalled,” Pereira said, responding to criticism that the cases, some dating to 2013, were moving ahead slowly. “I know that people sometimes want things to happen faster.”
Petrobras spent about 50 billion reais ($12.4 billion) subsidizing fuel through late 2014. Thanks to a stronger Brazilian currency at the time, the subsidies cost as much as $25 billion.
At the same time, Petrobras was investing $40 billion or more a year with almost no increase in oil and gas output. As fuel prices fell to 12-year lows, the need to save cash to pay maturing debts forced Petrobras to cut investments needed to expand output and pay future obligations.
The discovery of price-fixing, bribery and political kick-backs at the company also led to Petrobras to write off $17 billion of over-valued assets in 2015.
Mantega, Coutinho, Belchior, Barbassa and the EBX Group did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
PricewaterhouseCoopers and KPMG declined to comment. (Writing and additional reporting by Jeb Blount; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)