SÃO PAULO — Vale SA Chief Executive Fabio Schvartsman and other top executives of the Brazilian mining giant stepped down following pressure from authorities in the first sign investigators are zeroing in on the company’s leadership after the deadly collapse of one of its dams.

The move came after Brazilian state and federal prosecutors, as well as the police, issued a joint recommendation to Vale’s board, advising the company to immediately remove Schvartsman and other executives from their posts. They also told the board to ban them from the company’s premises and prohibit other employees from discussing work matters with them.

The authorities said their recommendation was based on “evidence obtained up until now about the involvement of these people in facts related to the rupture of the dam,” without giving further details. Schvartsman has denied wrongdoing. Vale

VALE, -0.72%

  — one of Brazil’s largest companies and the world’s largest iron ore miner — said it is fully cooperating with the authorities and carrying out its own probe into the January disaster.

A Wall Street Journal investigation based on information from police, prosecutors, court documents and people familiar with the matter found that employees of Vale and its contract safety inspector knew for months of dangerous conditions at the dam that collapsed. Yet inspectors at the German firm, TÜV SÜD, certified the dam as safe, expressing worry about losing contracts with Vale, a major client, the investigation found.

An expanded version of this report appears on WSJ.com.

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