Petrobras America, Inc. v. Samsung Heavy Industries Co., Ltd., No. 20-20338 (5th Cir. 2021)Annotate this Case
Petrobras, the American subsidiary of a Brazilian oil and gas producer, alleges that Samsung, a Korean shipbuilder, secretly bribed Petrobras executives to finalize a contract between Petrobras and Pride. In a 2007 contract, Samsung had an option to build a deep-sea drillship if Pride secured a drilling-services contract with another company. Samsung arranged to bribe Petrobras executives to secure Pride's contract for the construction of DS-5. After Petrobras put DS-5 on permanent standby and conducted an internal audit, it informed Brazilian prosecutors. A 2014 investigation into corruption throughout Brazil, included a separate bribery scheme in which Samsung contracted with Petrobras to construct two other ships.
In 2019, Petrobras sued Samsung for its role in the bribery that led to the Petrobras–Pride DS-5 contract, citing common-law fraud under Texas law and the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, 18 U.S.C. 1962(c),(d). The district court took judicial notice of Petrobras’s 2014 SEC filing and Washington Post and Reuters articles, describing the bribery schemes underlying other Samsung–Petrobras contracts that did not mention the Petrobras–Pride DS-5 contract. From those, the court inferred that Petrobras was on notice by 2014 that the DS-5 contract was suspect. Holding that “the specific drillship in this case is not subject to its own limitations clock,” the district court dismissed the suit. The Fifth Circuit reversed. The pleadings do not establish as a matter of law that Petrobras had actual or constructive notice of its injury before March 2015, so dismissal at the pleading stage was improper.