Americanas: Banks had Suspicions, but controls failed. “We hear lies”
Among the many doubts hanging over the Americana case, one of the biggest is how the company managed to spend years being “inconsistent” in its accounting without arousing suspicion. Why didn’t monitoring mechanisms designed to detect error and fraud work? In lengthy conversations with the Brazil Journal, creditor bank executives said there were doubts, but the company still gave explanations about what was wrong.
At the time, these explanations seemed sufficient, but now it is clear that “we have heard a lot of lies”, says an executive. The creditors indicated that they had questioned the company more than once about the extent of the exposure of their establishments in the account which collects the financing operations of the suppliers in the risk-free method. At least two of the creditors told the Brazil Journal that they each withdrew between 70% and 80% of the total risk balance in some years.
This part was calculated by taking as a reference the balance mentioned in the balance sheet: we now know that this was an underestimate. “As it was a high turnout, we asked why and the company said they prioritized our bank, as we offered better terms, and transactions with other institutions were irrelevant” , explains an executive.
“But in reality, they were hiding the real size of the account, which was much larger, and giving the same explanations to all creditor banks,” says another executive, who claims to have this misinterpretation in writing. Theoretically, this can be verified. Banks can see the true size of Americana’s debt in the central bank’s Central Risk System (CRS), which compiles all of a company’s credit transactions – with information on past and past due loans, conditions, the limits available and the number of institutions financing the enterprise.
In the SCR, each bank can see its own transactions with the debtor, and the total transactions that all banks have made with this company. According to a creditor, until 2020, the SCR had not shown anything abnormal in the calculation of the risk derived from Americanas. That year, the system declared a balance of R$4 billion in this type of credit. On the company’s balance sheet, the volume was 7 billion reais.
This difference is due to the fact that not all financing to suppliers is provided by banks and only bank transactions appear in the credit history. However, there was a reversal in 2021: the SCR showed a total of R$10.5 billion in loans under the risk picking method; But, on the balance sheet, there was only R$ 8.5 billion. In the first quarter of 2022 (latest available data), the spread increased: R$13 billion in SCR and only R$5 billion on the balance sheet, according to this creditor. “It made no sense.
Again we asked the company and were told that it was due to SCR issues and it would be better to use the balance sheet data,” said one. bank manager. Lawyers and bankers interviewed by Brazil Journal said SCR information was delayed by up to 90 days and the system sometimes suffered from operational failures. In addition, it is possible that transactions with risk removed have been charged to another SCR account.
“Banks tend to use SCR as another mechanism for analyzing company information. When in doubt, they ask for explanations and decide how to act,” says one of the lawyers. “The question is whether they are skeptical enough.” “Looking in the rearview mirror, we could have been more skeptical. But we never imagined that a company like Americana would commit fraud,” says a creditor.
For a banker who is not a creditor to the company, “Americana was clear credit, and there seemed to be no reason to stay out of the company.” The creditors’ rewriting of history has flaws that they are trying to fill with explanations. Americana reported an accounting deficit of around 20 billion reais.
The SCR 2022 shows a difference of R$8 billion between the risk account taken from the balance sheet and the SCR account. Has this value grown to reach 20 billion reais in less than a year? Or are there other “contradictions”?
Also, in the Security Council report, the discrepancy only appears in the 2021 report. But, in the infamous January 12 call, former CEO Sergio Real said accounting discrepancies had been practiced for several years have sea? To get answers, Bradesco, Itaú and Santander have filed early production lawsuits, the aim of which is access to documents that can show what really happened to Americana’s books and who could be held responsible. of the leak.
Two banks reported that between 2016 and 2017, Americanas required them not to report risk maps in circulars sent to audits. This letter is used by audits to verify balance sheet information. Creditors explained to the Brazil Journal that they only report bank debt to audits (as well as SCRs), and that the protracted process only becomes bank debt if there is a renegotiation (an extension of the duration, for example) by Americana with the banks.
Otherwise, when the conditions negotiated between the bank and the supplier are maintained, the risk removed will enter the account of the suppliers of Americana and will appear in the circular letter sent by the suppliers. “It is always good to remember that the responsibility for the balance sheet information lies with the company”, explains a creditor.
Americanas sent the following statement to the Brasil Journal: “Americanas S.A. reports the disclosure of accounting discrepancies and that the Board of Directors, once informed of the issue, indicated the obligation to disclose the investigation and created an independent commission to investigate the circumstances that caused All management bodies (board of directors, management and committees) work together with the aim of maintaining the smooth running of the company.