Legislators Seek Investigation Into Corruption at JBS Before it Acquires More U.S. Companies

Members of the U.S. Senate’s Committee on Foreign Relations asked the Department of the Treasury in a letter to closely review U.S. acquisitions of JBS S.A. a Brazil-based meatpacking company, and other related entities. The committee alleged that JBS benefits from corruption and that a thorough investigation should be done.

“We remain deeply concerned by the company’s habitual use of criminal practices to obtain the funds to acquire U.S. companies. When foreign companies benefit from corrupt practices and spread them to U.S. markets, they jeopardize our economic security, present direct risks to our businesses, and undermine our efforts to fight corruption abroad,” the letter said.

The letter was signed by Sens. Robert Mendez (D-N.J.), chairman of the committee, and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.). They asked for the investigation to include JBS’s holding company J&F Investimentos and other entities owned by Wesley and Joesley Batista.

The company’s subsidiary, JBS USA, reportedly “expanded their share of the U.S. meatpacking industry … not through open competition or transparent means, but through bribery.” Reportedly the company has admitted to spending $150 million in bribes for financing through a Brazilian bank which allowed it to grow in the United States.

The committee cited that the U.S. Department of Justice has previously determined that the company violated the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act when purchasing Swift Foods Co. and Pilgrim’s Pride. It also cited ongoing meatpacking antitrust lawsuits where Pilgrim’s Pride executives, part of the JBS subsidiary, pled guilty to artificially increasing the price of chicken and other settlements in antitrust lawsuits. The letter claimed that the company’s actions have increased costs for American consumers.

In addition to alleging that JBS has damaged the U.S. market, the letter also claimed that it maintained a monopoly on meat in Venezuela, sold low quality meat in Brazil, and exported expired meat worldwide covering tracks with chemicals that cause cancer. Reportedly, the company recently acquired a large plant-based food company in Europe and is seeking to spread outside of the meatpacking industry, making the investigation more urgent according to the Senators.

“The Batista brothers, who are worth over $6 billion, have the means to continue their corruption-fueled expansion. Based on their track record, they are likely to continue using unfair business practices to exclude fair methods of competition and harm competing U.S. businesses and consumers alike. Before JBS S.A. can be allowed to expand its corrupt business practices to new markets, there must be accountability,” the senators said.