SAO PAULO, Nov 3 (Reuters) - Brazilian state-controlled lender Caixa Econômica Federal might have breached laws by booking anticipated revenue from a low-income housing subsidy program over the last seven years, which helped to inflate profit by about 15 billion reais ($4.6 billion), according to a report by a congressional economist.
Since 2009, Caixa booked money transfers from the FI-FGTS workers severance fund used to pay for the subsidies as recurring revenue, said the analysis by economist Marcos Köhler, an adviser to Senator José Aníbal Peres de Pontes.
According to the document, to which Reuters had partial access because it remains private, the FI-FGTS money covers some of the gap between the interest rate at which Caixa raises funds and lends to borrowers.
In a statement to Reuters, Caixa denied any wrongdoing. It said it complies with all banking regulations imposed by the central bank and Brazil’s National Monetary Council - the country’s main economic policymaking body.
Caixa said that booking the transfers as revenue helped the bank mitigate the potential risks of capital allocation and mortgage lending.
Since Caixa offers up to 30-year mortgages, the upfront cash transfers from the FI-FGTS often more than cover Caixa’s risk on the loans, Köhler told Reuters on Thursday.
Booking future revenue that has not been accrued is not generally accepted under accounting guidelines and might be breaching central bank rules, Köhler said.
“The bank is getting an upfront payment in the form of loan installments and administration fees even when repayment has not begun on some of the loans. That means booking anticipated revenue, which distorts the bank’s bottomline and is barred by the law,” he said.
In recent years, Caixa has been sanctioned by the central bank and other government agencies for accounting irregularities.
Köhler’s report highlights the scrutiny and governance challenges facing Caixa, which for years was used by former President Dilma Rousseff to stimulate growth in Latin America’s largest economy.
The higher revenue and profit also helped Rousseff’s administration, because dividends and income taxes paid by Caixa helped boost government revenue, according to Köhler.
Aníbal, who serves on the joint congressional committee on economic affairs, is a member of the center-right Brazilian Social Democracy Party. He took his seat in the Senate as a replacement for the current Foreign Minister José Serra.
Köhler said his report would be released on Friday.
$1 = 3.23 reais Editing by Brad Haynes; Editing by Bernard Orr