March 18, 2020 / 7:28 PM / 23 days ago

'Misled' shareholders in Brazil's JBS seek $271m damages

SAO PAULO, March 18 (Reuters) - A group of shareholders in JBS SA has started arbitration proceedings against the beef company in Brazil's stock exchange B3 SA Brasil Bolsa Balcao, claiming they were misled after the company's IPO in 2007.

In a statement on Wednesday, U.S.-based law firm DRRT along with Brazilian co-counsel Finkelstein Advogados said the shareholders are seeking damages of 1.4 billion reais ($271 million) against JBS.

The plaintiffs allege JBS and its executives released false and/or misleading information to investors after going public, claiming the company had become the world's largest meat-packer, based on "bribery and corruption."

They said they requested mandatory arbitration on behalf of 95 former and current institutional shareholders of the company at the arbitration chamber of B3.

JBS did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The arbitration suit is the latest legal blow to JBS, whose owners signed a plea deal with Brazilian prosecutors in 2017 confessing to making illegal payments to scores of politicians to advance their business interests.

The plea deal related to a then three-year old graft probe that shocked Brazil's political and business establishment.

In February, Reuters reported that JBS would proceed with its plans to list its international operations in the United States, but without raising new money from investors.

The initial IPO plans, drafted four years ago, had previously failed due to a veto from Brazil's development bank BNDES, which is a shareholder in JBS, and difficult market conditions.

$1 = 5.1609 reais Reporting by Ana Mano; editing by Nick Macfie

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