2014-11-01 01:15:05.719 GMT
By Sabrina Valle
Nov. 1 (Bloomberg) -- Petroleo Brasileiro SA’s auditor PricewaterhouseCoopers is demanding that the Rio de Janeiro- based producer fire a top executive who is cited in a corruption investigation before it approves the third-quarter earnings, said a person with direct knowledge of the issue.
Petrobras discussed dismissing Sergio Machado, the head of the Transpetro transport unit, for four hours at a board meeting yesterday without reaching a decision because some members said they were concerned it would cause friction in President Dilma Rousseff’s ruling coalition, said the person, who declined to be named because the information isn’t public. PwC may have additional demands apart from Machado’s dismissal before it approves the earnings report, the person said.
Machado has denied any irregularities and says the accusations are absurd, Transpetro said in an e-mailed response from its press department. Machado has no knowledge about discussions at Petrobras’s board meeting or any recommendations from PwC, according to the response.
Petrobras and PwC didn’t immediately respond to phone calls and e-mails requesting comment after normal business hours. Rousseff’s press office directed all questions to Petrobras when contacted by phone.
The state-controlled oil company is at the center of a wide-ranging, multi-billion dollar money laundering and bribery investigation that has put Rousseff, who was the company’s chairwoman from 2003 to 2010, on the defensive. It was a major theme in elections last month that Rousseff won by a small margin.
Petrobras’s former head of refining Paulo Roberto Costa, who is currently under house arrest under a plea bargain agreement with prosecutors, said in videotaped testimony he received 500,000 reais ($202,000) in payments from Machado.
Machado is the only Petrobras executive cited by Costa for alleged bribing who still works at the company.
Petrobras suspended the meeting without discussing a fuel price increase that investors were hoping for, and the board will resume the meeting on Nov. 4, the person said. Petrobras originally planned to release its earnings yesterday, and it delayed the announcement without explaining why or announcing a new date. Brazilian companies have until Nov. 14 to release third-quarter results.
Management is dedicating time to investigate the claims and executives, including Chief Executive Officer Maria das Gracas Foster, have been traveling to Brasilia to testify before congress at a time it is trying to double production from deepwater fields in the Atlantic.
Earlier last month Petrobras hired two law firms to investigate alleged corruption after PwC said it wouldn’t sign off on quarterly results, according to two people with knowledge of the matter.
PwC told Petrobras it would have to alert U.S. authorities if appropriate action wasn’t taken, the people said. On Oct. 30 PwC said it doesn’t comment on its clients in an e- mailed response.
Petrobras is a “victim” in the investigation and is collaborating with authorities, it said in a Oct. 27 statement.
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