RIO DE JANEIRO, March 4 (Reuters) - A U.S. federal judge on Wednesday named a trustee of a British pension fund as the lead plaintiff in a class-action lawsuit against Brazil’s state-run oil company Petroleo Brasileiro SA and its top executives.
Universities Superannuation Scheme Ltd (USS) will represent people and companies that bought U.S.-listed securities in Petrobras, as the oil company is known. A corruption scheme has helped wiped about $90 billion of the value of the company in six months.
The judge also named the law firm of Pomerantz LLP in New York as the lead counsel and ordered lawyers for both side to contact the court on March 6 to schedule further proceedings.
More than three-dozen Brazilian executives have been indicted in Brazil in a case that prosecutors say involved price-fixing, bribery and political kickbacks. On Tuesday the country’s top prosecutor asked the Supreme Court to open investigations into an additional 54 people, many expected to be sitting politicians.
The case is expected to be the largest ever corruption case in Brazil.
The lawsuit, filed in the Southern District of New York on Dec. 8, alleges that Petrobras made false statements and engaged in a multibillion dollar money-laundering and bribery scheme since 2006.
Petrobras officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment but in the past the company said it will evaluate the value of some assets due to allegations of corruption.
U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff chose USS from among four final candidates. These were the Skagen-Danske group of three European asset management companies, Danske Invest Management AS, and Danske Invest Management Co., both part of the Danske Bank Group and Skagen AS; the State Retirement Systems group, representing the public-employee retirement funds of Ohio, Idaho and Hawaii; USS; and Daniela Freitas Da Silva, an individual investor.
The original action was filed by New York law firm Wolf Popper LLP. (Reporting by Jeb Blount; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)