Venezuelan Oil Company Sues Miami Ex-Congressman Over $50 Million Deal

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MIAMI — Venezuela’s state-run oil company was on the verge of financial ruin in 2017 when it decided it needed expert advice on how to improve its reputation and standing with American policymakers who could be instrumental to its survival.

For help, the company, Petróleos de Venezuela, S.A., or PDVSA, turned to a well-connected former Florida congressman, agreeing to pay his firm $50 million over three months for “strategic consulting services.”

The ex-congressman was David Rivera, a Cuban-American Republican from Miami who made a political career out of taking strident anti-communist stances — and was now being hired by President Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela’s socialist government.

As part of the previously undisclosed deal, a subsidiary of a PDVSA holding company in the U.S. says it shelled out $15 million to Mr. Rivera’s consulting firm. It received just two vague reports totaling five pages in return, according to a lawsuit for breach of contract filed on Wednesday in the United States District Court in Manhattan.

Mr. Rivera’s firm, Interamerican Consulting, “performed no meaningful services under the Agreement, and certainly did not perform the level of services that might be reasonably be expected for a fee of approximately $17 million per month,” the complaint filed by PDV USA, the American subsidiary, says, referencing the monthly total he charged for his services.

The company seeks to recover, with interest, the $15 million it ultimately paid to Interamerican over three $5 million installments between March and April of 2017, as well as compensatory damages.