For decades, corruption has been an integral part of the corporate culture at Odebrecht. So much so that Brazil’s largest construction firm has an entire department exclusively dedicated to the payment of bribes to public officials. Ambiguously named the “Structured Operations division,” until 2015 it had five staff members and a separate office at Odebrecht headquarters.
This division boosted the company’s growth and international presence. Annual revenues reached BRL 97 billion in 2013. But after the launch of Operation Car Wash, the largest anti-corruption investigation in Brazilian history, prosecutors managed to prove that the company paid over BRL 12 billion in kickbacks to at least 400 politicians between 2006 and 2014 alone. Cornered by investigators, 77 former executives detailed the ins and outs of Odebrecht’s schemes.
The company’s former CEO, Marcelo Odebrecht, spent two and a half years in prison and is now under house arrest. His father, also convicted of corruption, announced at the end of last year that the family, which owns approximately 80 percent of the company’s stock, would no longer hold seats at the board. During his speech, Mr. Odebrecht Sr. promised that the group, once one of Latin America’s biggest, would emerge from the ashes.