Finance

Menendez, Rubio ask Yellen to probe meatpacker JBS

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The chairman and ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee asked Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen to investigate if the owners of meatpacker JBS SA used proceeds from a bribery scheme to expand its US operations.

Sens. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) in a Friday letter asked Yellen to launch a probe of JBS and the owners of its parent company, Joesley and Wesley Batista, through the Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S. (CFIUS). CFIUS is chaired by the Treasury secretary and has the power to review and block the acquisitions of U.S. companies by foreign entities if the transactions could threaten national security. 

JBS SA, the world’s largest meatpacking and distribution company, became the U.S.’s second-largest meat supplier with its acquisitions of Pilgrim’s Pride and Swift & Co. Those companies became part of JBS USA, one of several JBS operations derailed by a June ransomware attack.

Menendez and Rubio urged Yellen to investigate JBS after its parent company, J&F Investimentos, in October agreed to pay a $256 million fine to the Justice Department over charges that it violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA). The Batistas previously admitted to spending roughly $150 million to bribe more than 1,800 Brazilian government officials to secure $1.3 billion in loans from the Brazilian Development Bank and federal pension funds. 

Both JBS USA and Pilgrim’s Pride, now a subsidiary, also paid more than $100 million in fines to settle price-fixing charges.

“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,” Menendez and Rubio wrote.

The pair made the same request in 2019 of former Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who led the department under former President Trump and used CFIUS to block several potential acquisitions of U.S. technology companies by foreign firms.

At the time, a JBS spokesman said the company has cooperated with all U.S. and Brazilian investigations and will continue to work with federal officials. 

Updated at 6:12 p.m.

Tags Bob Menendez Donald Trump Janet Yellen Marco Rubio Steven Mnuchin

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