Congress wants to change State-Owned Companies Law to facilitate exchanges at Petrobras
Parliamentarians want to avoid a new episode like that of José Mauro Coelho, who was fired, but remained in office for three more weeks
The flexibilization of the criteria for appointing members of the boards and directors of public companies is one of the points that is on the radar of parliamentarians for a possible change in the Law of State-Owned Companies.
The law was one of the first approved in the administration of former president Michel Temer (MDB), in response to a series of investigations that pointed to malfeasance and political use of companies in previous administrations. The objective was to strengthen the governance of state-owned companies and shield them from political interference.
More recently, however, the provisions of the law served to stop the pretensions of President Jair Bolsonaro (PL) and allies to the command of Petrobras, a mixed-capital company controlled by the Union and which has a decisive role in the fuel market — whose rise in prices is seen as an obstacle to Bolsonaro’s re-election.
Another device that is in the sights of the articulators of change is the one that requires at least 25% of independent members on the board of directors of companies.
Allies of the Chief Executive, including the mayor, Arthur Lira (PP-AL), defend the flexibility of the State-owned Companies Law to facilitate changes in the command of companies and avoid the repetition of episodes such as the dismissal of José Mauro Coelho, the most recent former president of Petrobras.
“What is intended is a faster solution for replacement when there is a need”, he told the Sheet the government leader in the Chamber, Ricardo Barros (PP-PR).
Coelho was fired on May 23, but remained in office until last Monday (20) due to the necessary procedures for the succession. According to the rules, the new nominee, secretary Caio Paes de Andrade, who currently works at the Ministry of Economy, must have his name approved at the general shareholders’ meeting, after a rigorous process of verifying his CV.
The delay in the change and the fact that Petrobras had, in the meantime, announced another readjustment in the price of fuels aroused the ire of the political class, which resorted to various pressure instruments for Coelho’s departure. He resigned on Monday.
The government already has a list of new nominees for Petrobras’ board of directors, which includes the Attorney General of the National Treasury, Ricardo Soriano, and the Executive Secretary of the Civil House, Jonathas Nery de Castro – he is number two in the portfolio commanded by minister Ciro Nogueira.
Representatives of minority shareholders on the state-owned company’s board had already been warning, however, that Paes de Andrade himself does not meet the requirements of the State-owned Companies Law to occupy the presidency of Petrobras.
The law requires that applicants for management positions have ten years’ experience in the same area of activity as the public company or in a related area; or four years at the head of a company of equivalent size, a position on a commission or trust in the public sector; or position of professor or researcher in areas of activity of the state-owned company to which he was appointed.
The text also allows for the appointment of nominees with four years of experience as a liberal professional in an activity directly or indirectly linked to the area of operation of the public company or mixed capital company.
It is in this context that parliamentarians want to change the criteria for appointing members of councils and directors, as well as the composition of these collegiate bodies.
It is also not ruled out to make some change in the law of state-owned companies that could help the government to stop possible readjustments in fuels.
Lira’s strategy is to pressure the government to send an MP (provisional measure) amending the law, as, according to deputies close to him, this would reduce the resistance of the economic team to changes in the rules for state-owned companies. In addition, the flexibility in the rules would take effect immediately, after the MP was edited by Palácio do Planalto.
In the economic team, technicians are emphatic in stating that a change like this “does not come from the Ministry of Economy”. For this wing, the prohibitions on appointing politicians, for example, to positions in state-owned companies is very important. The concern is that there is a setback in the State-Owned Companies Law.
In the Executive, there is still no definition on the sending of an MP, although the discussion of the measure has been pointed out even by the government leader in the Chamber, Ricardo Barros (PP-PR), on his social networks.
In conversations with members of the Chamber, Lira has reinforced her indignation with the latest increase in fuel prices and attributes Petrobras’ decision to Coelho.
For this reason, members of the centrão, a group of parties that are part of the government’s allied base, want to remove powers from state-owned companies and increase government management over companies.
In April, Lira had already defended changes to the State-Owned Companies Law after businessman Adriano Pires, a name supported by the mayor, gave up the presidency of Petrobras due to a possible conflict of interest. At the time, Lira stated that the established compliance rule was made to stop Petrobras.
Now, the deputy wants the government to sponsor these changes in the law. He wants to avoid leaving the Chamber’s fingerprint as the author of the flexibilization, which had already been discussed in the face of the rise in fuel prices, but is rejected by Minister Paulo Guedes (Economy).
Faced with resistance, House leaders prefer that the political wing of the government convince the economic area that changes to the state-owned company law are made.
Lira and centrão leaders also suggested an MP to immediately change the taxation rules for oil and gas companies – another front of the offensive against Petrobras launched after the fuel price readjustment announced on Friday (17). The logic is the same: to prevent the Ministry of Economy from trying to bar proposals being discussed by the Chamber.