When has all started? It is not easy to pinpoint the exact beginning of Brazil’s inflation problems. Inflation certainly got a big boost when, as they say, president Juscelino Kubitschek (1955-59), “promised the country fifty years of progress in five, but gave Brazil forty years of inflation in four.”
Twenty years of harsh military rule (1964-85) were unable to tame the dragon of inflation so it fell to the civilian governments of José Sarney, Fernando Collor and, finally, Fernando Henrique Cardoso, to deal with the problem through a series of what came to be called “economic shock plans.”
The first one was the Plano Cruzado. The plan even had a motto: “It has to work.” But, it didn’t. And the result was disastrous. Other plans followed. All of them “had to work,” but none of them did.
At the end of the Sarney government, 1989, inflation was over 40% a month! During the Collor administration it reached 80%. Especially hard hit by the economic chaos that followed each failed plan were people with passbook savings (poupança).
August 25, 2010 (a little bit of the law’s delay here) the Second Section of the Brazilian Superior Appeals Court ruled that passbook savings losses due to the economic shock plans Bresser (1987), Summer (1989), Collor 1 (1990) and Collor 2 (1992) are to be restituted.
The judges specified that restitutions are to be adjusted as follows (correção monetária): 26.06% for the Bresser Plan; 42.72% for the Summer Plan; 44.80% for Collor 1; and, 21.87% for Collor 2.
However, at the same time the court also ruled that the statute of limitations on class action suits for restitution was five years after the plan, effectively eliminating 99% of those lawsuits (in actual numbers, this removed 1,015 out of 1,030 claims by around 40 million people who put their money in the bank thinking it was a safe place).
Even so, there are still over 814,000 individual claims for restitution of poupança losses in courts somewhere. The STJ ruled that the statute of limitations on individual claims remains 20 years. So most of them are still valid.
Financial experts have calculated that someone with money in a passbook savings account during the period the four plans were foisted upon the country, 1987 to 1992, would have lost around 95% of his money.
The decision by the STJ Second Section can, and certainly will be, appealed. It can go back to the entire STJ and to the Supreme Court.