Systemic Corruption in Brazil: An Autopsy of the Odebrecht Case

  • Markus Pohlmann (Author)
    Heidelberg University
  • Elizangela Valarini (Author)
    Heidelberg University
  • Maria Trombini (Author)
    Heidelberg University
  • Mario Jorge (Author)

Identifiers (Article)


Brazil has a myriad of corrupti on scandals in its recent history. Nonetheless, research
on the organizati onal level of corruption is underdeveloped. The paradigm of individual
deviance related to wealth grabs hardly applies to the ‘active corruption’ of the bribe
giver, as seen in recent cases exposed by Operation Car Wash. The holding Odebrecht
S.A is at the heart of these scandals. In these cases of bribery, most of the bribe givers
are high-ranking, well-educated, and well-paid managers. They are highly connected
with public agents and their actions are in line with the company’s goals. We perform
an autopsy of the Odebrecht Case and briefly outline what mechanisms and factors on
corporate level bolstered a pattern of endemic systemic corruption in the construction
sector in Brazil. Our purpose is to contribute to the bigger discussion of corporate crime
without overlooking criminological and polity’s perspective but providing an approach
from the sociology of organizations. We analyze strengths and weaknesses of regulati -
ve institutions and the environmental conditions under which the Brazilian construction
company-operated and interacted both with its competitors and with public institutions.
Based on the judicial documents about Odebrecht and its employees, we reconstruct
the factors and mechanisms that are central to organizational deviance and provide an
overview of the consequences for the company.


Odebrecht, active corruption, organizational deviance, car wash, corporate crime