Americanas has been the scene of one of the “largest accounting frauds by the private sector,” Bradesco says

THE Americans was the scene of one of the largest accounting frauds by the private sector, lawyers say Bradesque in response to the retail chain, which decided to appeal this Friday 27 to the Court of Justice of São Paulo against the decision of the previous day, which determined, among other things, the search and seizure of executive emails and employees of the retail chain, urgently.

The text of Bradesco’s lawyers stings the former president of Americanas, Sergio Rial, arguing that he finds it hard to believe his “bad story”, that he discovered the hole in just nine days at the helm of the company, “in a flash of numerical genius that not even the financial market is used to seeing”. Facts that managers, accounting firms and consultants haven’t seen for years. “It takes a lot of gullibility to believe such nonsense,” argue Bradesco’s lawyers, of the law firm warde.

The lawyers comment that it is hard to avoid the temptation to associate the R$20 billion hole that Americanas says disappeared from its balance sheets, in ten years, with the R$2 billion that was distributed to its shareholders in the same period, or with the almost 800 million reais paid to its administrators. The allegation in the bank’s petition is that the gap in Americanas was created precisely to provide dividends and bonuses to the company’s top executives.

“Today, two weeks after the event, no one is afraid to say that what happened in the Americanas books was not an accident, the result of a mistake, a mistake made by a group of accountants who had the misfortune to get propagated inadvertently for years and years. No, today no one spares words to say what was already guessed, but it was obvious: Americanas was the stage for one of the largest accounting frauds in the private sector”, write the lawyers.

The former CEO of Americanas Sergio Rial, who resigned after discovering a billionaire hole. Photo: Paulo Whitaker/Reuters

The Bradesco document considers January 11 – the day on which Americanas disclosed the material fact that informed the leak – as the beginning of the end of the group, through the fault of its own managers and shareholders. “According to all that suggests, these inconsistencies – which have turned into dividends and bonuses – were created by the American executives themselves, with the complacency or even the determination of the controlling shareholders”.

And whoever pays the bill for “this disruptive accounting” is the company, which, if it manages to recover, will have “fatally reduced its turnover and will lose revenues and market value”, in addition to the employees, who could face to layoffs, suppliers, minority shareholders and investors, “who defaulted to billions of dollars,” says the bank’s defense.

The frauds against Americanas, argue Bradesco’s lawyers, should have been prevented “only with the most elementary internal control mechanisms of the company”. In this context, they argue that Americanas’ position in challenging the TJ-SP decision is perplexing.

The company “appears to be doing everything possible and impossible to prevent the fraud from being investigated” and those responsible from being punished, they say. This, in fact, is the objective of the anticipated production of evidence, to investigate the scam and identify those responsible, conclude the lawyers.

For the lawyers, the explanation for Americanas’ alleged resistance to investigating the fraud is that the people who still run the company and are its controllers “are the very ones who will be investigated and who may be held responsible for the situation in the future.” “It is urgent to initiate investigations at Americanas,” Bradesco asks.

Bradesco cannot request proof, the company says

Americanas appealed to the São Paulo Court of Justice against a decision in favor of Bradesco which led to the early production of evidence with the presentation of emails from company executives and employees, including the former CEO Miguel Gutiérrez. The document, which also quotes philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, says the bank lacks the power to request the required evidence and questions whether the petition was filed in São Paulo.

“Americanas Group does not dispute, at any time, that the facts giving rise to the recently discovered accounting inconsistencies need to be effectively investigated. But haste, as a popular saying goes, is the enemy of perfection,” says the company’s defense. Lawyers say it’s too early to “guess” there was a fraud, who is presumed guilty.

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“The investigation into possible fraud involves not only Bradesco, but the Americanas Group itself and all its other creditors. But this investigation (…) cannot be carried out in a casual way, with the expenditure of excessive resources and with unproductive and harmless efforts”, argues the defense of the retailer.

The defense also cites that Americanas issued an internal statement directing employees not to change the records so as not to interfere with the evidence. In the press release issued on the 11th of this month, the same day on which the Significant Fact was made public, it is stated that it is “of fundamental importance that all corporate information, current or referring to previous periods, be preserved”. “It is essential to preserve the history of information. No form of infringement or omission will be tolerated.

In the piece, the lawyers criticize the fact that the bank has asked Justice for an “accounting report, an report ‘with an investigative background (forensic report)'” so that those responsible for the fraud can be identified, with the identification of the responsible directors and shareholders who they participated. “But Bradesco, forgive the obviousness, is not a Public Prosecutor. Therefore, it has no competence to promote a broad and in-depth investigation or even a ‘forensic report’”, they write. “The complaint, therefore, is media. And not just in the media, but blatantly offensive,” they continue.

Furthermore, they argue that since the place where the alleged evidence would be produced is Rio de Janeiro, “there is no law that allows the initiation of this action for the advance production of evidence in São Paulo.”

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