April 15, 2020 / 3:01 PM / 2 months ago

Berkshire Hathaway unit wins 643 million euro award over 'fraudulent' German pipemaker purchase

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Precision Castparts Corp, a unit of Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc (BRKa.N), has been awarded 643 million euros ($700 million) in arbitration for having been fraudulently induced to buy a German maker of pipes and fittings.

The award against Schulz Holding GmbH, whose U.S. and German businesses were purchased by Precision Castparts for 800 million euros ($870 million) in February 2017, was made on April 9 by a panel of the American Arbitration Association’s International Centre for Dispute Resolution.

“This is not a close case,” the panel said in a 132-page ruling. “The evidence strongly points to fraud, and there is little in the record to suggest otherwise.”

Precision Castparts, a maker of aircraft and industrial parts, asked a federal judge in Manhattan on Tuesday night to confirm the award. Berkshire paid $32.1 billion for Precision Castparts in January 2016, its largest acquisition.

Schulz’s U.S.-based lawyers did not immediately respond on Wednesday to requests for comment. Precision Castparts did not immediately respond to similar requests.

The case is at least the second in recent years in which Omaha, Nebraska-based Berkshire claimed to have been defrauded out of hundreds of millions of dollars.

Last May, Berkshire took a $377 million charge related to tax benefits associated with a California solar company, DC Solar, whose owners later pleaded guilty to involvement in a Ponzi scheme.

Precision Castparts, based in Portland, Oregon, began arbitration proceedings in March 2018, accusing Schulz of using such practices as fake invoices and backdated orders before the 2017 purchase to inflate revenue and profit.

Schulz, based in Krefeld, Germany, countered that Precision Castparts failed to prove its claims, and was not damaged because the acquired businesses were worth more than 800 million euros.

But the arbitration panel found indications that Schulz’s fraudulent activity had become “progressively more bold” in the months leading up to the transaction, when the company was in financial distress and faced a “severe risk” of bankruptcy,

The panel also said Precision Castparts had “amply demonstrated” that Schulz’s representatives had misled them.

Precision Castparts said the acquired Schulz businesses were worth no more than 157 million euros ($171 million).

The panel called that a “responsible estimate,” and deducted it from the purchase price to reach the 643 million-euro award.

Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; editing by Jonathan Oatis

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