Four top executives with Petrobras will decline to renew their terms — which expired last week — after taking issue with the incoming chief executive’s plans for the company.
Retired general Joaquim Silva e Luna was appointed last month after his predecessor, Roberto Castello Branco, was ousted by President Jair Bolsonaro after a stand-off over charging market prices for diesel consumed by Brazil's powerful road haulage industry.
Rumbling discontent on the Petrobras board of directors has triggered resignation notices from the company’s executive director for exploration and production, Carlos Alberto Pereira de Oliveira, the head of development and production, Rudimar Lorenzatto, the investor relations chief, Andrea Almeida and the director of sales and logistics Andre Chiarini.
The decision of the four executive directors not to renew their terms was confirmed by a Petrobras statement, although all four will remain in their posts until their replacements are selected and approved at an extraordinary general meeting of shareholders scheduled for 12 April.
Petrobras said in a separate filing on Wednesday that the board has chosen Salvador Dahan as its new director of governance and compliance, starting 1 May.
Dahan replaces Marcelo Zenkner who left the company earlier this year.
Former refining director Anelise Lara also chose to stand down as soon as Castello Branco’s exit was confirmed in February.
Bolsonaro came to power in 2018 claiming to be a convert to the free market philosophy of his economy minister Paulo Guedes but, with elections looming next year, the controversial right-winger has preferred to court popularity among key constituents such as truckers and farmers.
The dismissal of Castello Branco spooked Petrobras investors and recent statements by Silva e Luna about the oil company's responsibilities towards Brazilian society are reminiscent of the interventionism that has damaged the state-controlled company’s financial equilibrium in the past.
Ironically, such policies are most closely associated with Bolsonaro’s supposed arch-enemies on the Brazilian left.
Under ex-president Dilma Rousseff, Petrobras lost an estimated $40 billion between 2011 and 2014 — as well as piling up debt — as it was forced to subsidise the difference between cheap domestic fuel and expensive international products.
The Brazilian state holds 37% of Petrobras stock but 50.5% of the voting rights.