It was late in 2016, and executives at a major U.S. retirement fund manager were worried. A media report had appeared in a Brazilian newspaper that threatened to drag them into a long-running battle over stolen land.
The Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association of America (TIAA), which handles billions of dollars’ worth of retirement funds for teachers and civil servants, had bought a disputed farm in 2010 through a joint venture with Brazilian sugar company Cosan S.A. The 7,000-hectare property, known as Parceiros, was one of their first purchases on Brazil’s northeastern plains, an area long known for land grabbing.
Two claimants had been locked in a long-running legal battle over who owned the land that made up Parceiros. But that hadn’t stopped TIAA and Cosan’s joint venture, Radar Propriedades Agrícolas S.A., from sitting down with the two men and agreeing to buy the disputed property — from both of them at the same time.