In April 2020, At the start of the severe economic crisis caused by the pandemic, the Bolsonaro government announced a temporary measure to try to save jobs in small and medium-sized companies by financing their salaries. The Emergency Employment Assistance Program, created by MP 944, injected R$ 40 billion in credit to cooperatives and banks, responsible for disbursing financing. Small traders breathed a sigh of relief – but only momentarily.
With bureaucracy and a series of inexplicable obstacles, the money did not reach them. And stop in the way Several of these cases showed in May 2020 — of the total injection by the government, BRL 1.44 billion, i.e. only 3.6%, was actually distributed to small entrepreneurs. As a result, workers were at risk of losing their jobs.
The report, at the time, drew the attention of the Attorney General’s Office, which decided to investigate the situation. In June 2020, the agency created a special group for final action with nine prosecutors to investigate why the implementation of the policy established by the provisional measures was so low. Four banks condemned by our report – Banco do Brasil, Caixa Económica Federal, Etau and Santander – were targeted for investigation.
Prosecutors requested information and documents from the institutions to prove the implementation of the emergency employment assistance program. After all, only Etawi answered the questions promptly – the information provided led the MPT to rule out irregularities. But other banks, according to prosecutors, went the other way and “attempted to obstruct investigative activity,” as they argued in a lawsuit.
It was only after a lawsuit that Banco do Brasil and Caixa collaborated on. Santander, neither. Prosecutors claimed that the bank concealed a series of information, such as the aggregate number of credit operations related to the emergency program, in addition to copies of documents and operations that confirmed the financing offer.
The Brazilian Federation of Banks, Febraban and Santander itself filed two injunctions to stop the investigation. Febraban’s move even paralyzed the investigation, but was later overturned by the Regional Labor Court of the 15th Region, TRT-15. “I do not see any irregularities committed by the Public Ministry of Labour”, Judge Antonio Francisco Montanagna decided.
For prosecutors, suspicions intensified with Santander’s “outrageous” behavior in denying information and attempting to obstruct the investigation. “As if banks were above the law, or ministers were immune from investigation. As the saying goes, ‘those who shouldn’t, fear not,'” the group wrote in a public civil action that proposed holding the bank responsible for the refusal, and it would be forced to provide the information under a penalty of daily fines. “If the bank’s conduct is clear If so, then the presentation of the evidence would only benefit it and, indeed, be in its full interest, as it could stall the investigation”, the prosecutors continued.
On January 24th, the decision came out: the request was accepted by the 4th Labor Court of Campinas and confirmed by TRT-15. The court determined that Santander provides information under penalty of, in case of non-compliance, a daily fine of R$ 150,000. According to the decision, the MPT’s request does not violate bank secrecy rules, since its scope is the analysis of public funds and “guarantees of wages and jobs, across the national territory, that achieve the quality of public interest”. Without a shadow of a doubt, in the face of this desolate scene that the epidemic has imposed on our country and the people of Brazil”.
Santander has yet to formally respond to the request despite the court order. Asked by The Intercept, the bank said only that it “cooperates with the authorities and, two years ago, in February 2021, therefore, forwarded all requested documents and information to the Ministry of Public Works”.
MPT and Justice, however, seem to disagree. Only after the bank releases the requested information – then yes – the special team’s investigation will be able to proceed to uncover possible irregularities
During the pandemic, Santander said on its website: “Together, we will overcome this moment”. In reality, small entrepreneurs did not feel this support. “I think their advertising is very nice”, one of them told us, in an article we published at the time. Now, we will finally be able to find out if, in fact, Santander delivered the amount they received to save their jobs.