In a statement sent to Reuters, Rio de Janeiro-based CVM confirmed
that Batista is a respondent in six of nine probes that executives
of his Grupo EBX conglomerate are facing for breaching securities
rules. In two of them, regulators are examining whether Batista
allegedly took advantage of his access to privileged information.
CVM also listed a dozen probes questioning financial and other data
unveiled by oil company Óleo and Gás Participações SA, formerly
known as OGX, and four more firms he controlled through EBX. If the
probes lead to criminal charges against Batista, it would be yet
another major blow to a businessman once hailed as Brazil's model
entrepreneur and a symbol of its economic success.
"If this turns out to be true it will be excellent news for
investors who lost so much with OGX," said Rodrigo Bornholdt, a
partner with Bornholdt Advogados in Joinville, Brazil, which has
been organizing minority shareholders for a lawsuit against OGX.
"This would make it much easier for them to sue Batista, the
corporate directors and the company."
The demise of his energy, logistics and mining empire, which two
years ago was valued at about $60 billion, ended up in OGX filing in
October for Latin America's largest bankruptcy.
Under CVM regulations, Batista could face fines and be banned from
running a listed company. But he could also face criminal
prosecution — which could put him in jail for as many as five years — and separate civil penalties if individual investors and companies
sue him for damages, Bornholdt added.
EBX, speaking on behalf of Batista, issued a statement denying any
wrongdoing. Batista did not make use of privileged information or
act in bad faith, the statement said, adding that he will explain
his decisions to the CVM.
Representatives for Oleo and Gas and OSX declined to comment.
According to a Valor Econômico newspaper report on Friday, CVM wants
to determine whether Batista also withheld information that was
unfavorable to some of his business while encouraging investors to
buy more stock in his companies. During that time, Batista sold
shares of OGX, as well as its sister company and shipbuilder OSX
Valor, which had access to the content of the probes, also said Óleo
e Gás waited at least 10 months to inform shareholders that four oil
fields were not commercially viable.
Some of the luster that helped bring hundreds of billions of dollars
into Brazil in the past decade, partly because of Batista's meteoric
rise, is gone. Like his promises of fast and "idiotproof" returns in
his various commodity and logistic ventures, Brazil's economic boom
has since fizzled into four consecutive years of mediocre growth.
[to top of second column]
The bankruptcies of OGX and OSX could have also helped weigh down on
confidence in Brazil's capital markets at a time of sluggish growth,
executives such as Edemir Pinto, the chief executive of financial
bourse BM&FBovespa SA, said a few months ago.
OGX shares have lost 99 percent of their value since 2010 and are no
longer a component of Brazil's Bovespa index. OSX, which is also
seeking bankruptcy protection, is entirely reliant on OGX for
In a filing on July 1, 2013, OGX said the Tubarão Azul, Tubarão Gato,
Tubarão Tigre and Tubarão Areia fields were not commercially viable,
kicking off the long decline of EBX.
Some of the ongoing probes showed Batista, whose companies are
mostly in bankruptcy proceedings or have been sold, had access to
information that was not communicated to the market when he sold
shares of OGX and the shipbuilder before July 1, possibly in
violation of Brazil's rules on using privileged information,
according to the newspaper.
Batista still controls Oleo and Gas and is its chairman. In
February, the company presented a plan to a Rio de Janeiro judge to
restructure and cede control to creditors owed $5.8 billion.
The CVM has decided to give Batista until May 14 to defend himself
against allegations of insider trading and price manipulation, the
government's official gazette said on Tuesday.
The Valor article said Batista and OGX executives had suspected the
amount of recoverable oil in the fields was smaller than initially
expected since 2011.
In September of 2012, board members were presented with a study by a
Brazilian unit of Schlumberger NV, the world's largest oilfield
service company, that confirmed drilling those areas would not yield
a profit under any scenario, Valor said.
At the time, Batista explained his 2012 share sales as minor
transactions to meet financial obligations he had with other
CVM's insider trading case for OGX is under the code RJ2014-0578 and
for OSX under the code RJ2013-13172.
(Reporting by Jeb Blount and Juliana Schicariol;
reporting by Caroline Stauffer and Marcela Ayres in São Paulo;
editing by Steve Orlofsky, Guillermo Parra-Bernal, Bernard Orr
[© 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights
Copyright 2014 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published,
broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.