The Real Deal New York

TIAA-CREF accused of land grabs in Brazil

Financial services giant owns 15 properties in NYC

November 17, 2015 04:52PM

Roger W Ferguson 685 Third Avenue

From left: Roger W Ferguson and 685 Third Avenue in Midtown

Nonprofit financial services giant TIAA-CREF bought hundreds of thousands of acres of Brazilian land since 2012, bypassing restrictions on purchases by foreigners, according to new disclosure documents.

The Midtown-based firm’s Brazilian land holdings jumped from around 257,000 acres in 2012 to more than 633,000 acres at the start of 2015.

The purchases – made with help of local partners and, in some cases, reportedly, shady local political bosses – violate a 2010 order by the country’s attorney general that effectively banned large-scale land acquisitions by foreigners, the New York Times reported.

“I had heard of foreign funds trying to get around Brazilian legislation, but something on this scale is astonishing,” Gerson Teixeira, the president of the Brazilian Association for Agrarian Reform, told the Times.

TIAA-CREF is a major New York landlord, with 14 properties in Manhattan, including the 634,000-square-foot office tower at 685 Third Avenue in Midtown East, and one more in Brooklyn.

The company’s main partner in the venture, Cosan, a sugar and biofuels firm, is facing scrutiny from Brazilian prosecutors, but so far the American firm has not faced any official sanction. [NYT] Ariel Stulberg

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