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The Battle For VarigLog: An Exercise in Judy Millerism?

//i113.photobucket.com/albums/n216/cbrayton/Stuff/variglog_logo.jpg?t=1209042250” contém erros e não pode ser exibida.

Cristiano Zanin Martins of Teixeira, Martins & Advogados published an op-ed in the Estado de S. Paulo in March 2007 on the current debate over laws limiting foreign participation in Brazilian airlines.

The firm is involved in the dispute over control of VarigLog, an airfreight subsidiary of the extinct Varig, acquired by a U.S. distressed equity firm, Matlin Patterson, which then used it to assume control of the parent company and sell it to Gol.

It was a proverbially heated business dispute. Nelson Tanure, a transport and logistics mogul and owner of the Gazeta Mercantil and the Jornal do Brasil, made a strong bid to acquire Varig, but failed in that bid.

The objectivity of the Jornal do Brasil‘s reporting on the current dispute has been called into question by Márcio Chaer of Consultor Jurídico (of the Estado de S. Paulo group). See

The Jornal do Brasil claims credit for having called the alleged illegality to the attention of the judge, who reportedly based his decision on what it published.

In a recent series on the ills of contemporary Brazilian journalism, journalist Luis Nassif has described a number of cases in which this sort of gambit is used in the local lobbying wars: Interested parties to litigation feed rumors to the press that winds up getting used as “evidence” in the litigation on the theory that the “investigative reporting” provides independent confirmation of the allegations.

Think Dick Cheney, Judy Miller, and the aluminum tubes. Cheney planted the rumor, then appeared on the Sunday talks shows to say that “it is now independently confirmed, by the New York Times …”

In the Dantas-Citi legal dispute in New York, for example, clippings from Brazilian press coverage were used as exhibits to shore up the theory of political persecution, but the judge ruled them inadmissible. See

David Neelman, formerly of the (red ink-soaked) Jet Blue, is about to launch a domestic airline in Brazil, with local and foreign investors behind him, which gives the dispute some wider implications.

File generally under “political risk” and “legal uncertainty” for foreign firms entering this market, I guess. Mr. Neelman scored points by announcing that the new airline’s fleet will be provided by Embraer, the Brazilian airplane builder specializing in killer Cessnas (the “SuperToucan,” used in the raid on the FARC’s “Raul Reyes” in Ecuador) and what are by many accounts very solid midrange passenger jets. (We have flown some. They have comfy seats, and did not crash while we were on them.)

The Teixeira firm is accused, in a recent Estado article, of aiding and abetting an illegal fund transfer by Matlin Patterson from a VarigLog account. Matlin denies the attempt, one reads. Teixeira has yet to respond, at least that has been reported in the press.

Roberto Teixeira has been exposed to a number of colorful accusations over the years because of his historic ties to the PT, the current party of government, so there is a strong element of political risk to consider.

Veja’s Diogo “The Martyr to Freedom of Expression” Mainardi made a number of (apparently unfounded) accusations of corruption and cronyism against the attorney in April 2007, for example. Teixeira is suing Mainardi and Veja for libel, as Consultor Jurídico reported at the time:

Foi-lhe prometida a publicação das explicações em três ocasiões, o que não ocorreu. Roberto Teixeira sentiu-se ludibriado. Na ação, ele invoca o direito básico de ser ouvido em notícia a seu respeito. “A revista não apenas atentou contra a honra do dr. Roberto Teixeira, como feriu a lei, a verdade e as próprias regras elementares do jornalismo”, criticou o advogado Cristiano Zanin Martins que, na petição, questiona o fato de Mainardi sentir-se desobrigado de obedecer regras por não ser jornalista. Essa condição, reforça Zanin Martins, revela outra infração: “A legislação exige que o profissional de imprensa seja habilitado para a função, enquanto o sr. Mainardi exerce ilegalmente a profissão.” O colunista não tem diploma de jornalismo nem o respectivo registro profissional.

Teixeira was promised the right of reply on three occasions, but never received it. Teixeira felt that he had been deceived. “The magazine not only attacked the reputation of Dr. Teixeira but broke the law, violating the truth and the basic rules of journalism,” wrote Cristiano Zanin Martins, who, in the petition, questions the fact that Mainardi feels he is not bound to obey the rules of journalism because he is not in fact a journalist. This fact reveals another infraction, according to Zanin Martins: “The law provides that journalists be licensed to perform that function, while Mainardi exercises the professon illegally.” The columnist does not have a journalism degree or the proper professional registration.”

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