Bill Gates’ foundation sues Brazil’s Petrobras

The Gates’ foundation says a scandal cost it tens of millions of dollars in investments, and it’s asking for damages.


The Gates Foundation filed the lawsuit late Thursday in the Southern District Court of New York.

“This case arises from a pervasive bribery and money-laundering scheme carried out by Petrobras and willfully ignored by PwC”, Kenneth Warner, lead attorney representing the claimant, said in a complaint.

“Indeed, the scandal still seems to escalate by the day – as more guilty pleas, more arrests, and more secret bank accounts are uncovered”, the complaint said.

Petrobras has long maintained it was a victim of a yearslong bid-rigging and bribery ring that Brazilian prosecutors say was cooked up by suppliers and a few crooked insiders who fleeced the oil company for at least $2 billion.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, together with WGI Emerging Markets Fund, alleged in the suit that the Brazilian oil firm repeatedly misrepresented its financial statements in order to trick investors into giving money. The foundation’s key focus is on better health and education and is working towards decreasing poverty.

The foundation’s trust manages the group’s $41 billion endowment. Warren Buffett, chairman of Berkshire Hathaway Inc, is among the trustees of the foundation.

The foundation is suing on its own, suggesting it believes it might recover more of its losses on Petrobras’ American depositary shares that way.

According to the suit, accounting giant PwC played an important role in misleading investors by attesting to Petrobras’ financial statements. Boston-based Westwood Global Investments, which manages and advises the co-plaintiff, didn’t respond to requests for comment.


Petrobras’ market value has plunged more than 90 percent from almost US$300 billion seven years ago. Bribes paid to Petrobras executives from construction and engineering companies over a decade is estimated at $2bn, according to prosecutors.

Created in 2000 by Microsoft Corp co-founder Bill Gates and his wife Melinda the foundation focuses on improving education and health and reducing poverty