FIFA, the DOJ and the Global Fight Against Corruption

The Department of Justice (DOJ) gave the global fight against anti-corruption a huge boost last week when it announced it was bringing charges against 14 members or persons associated with Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA). To say that the scope and breadth of the charges were breathtaking really does not capture this moment in history for the anti-corruption advocates around the globe. FIFA had held itself above the law for so long, that it finally took the DOJ to start the process of rooting out the corruption that appears to have been endemic in the organization.

My FCPA Blog contributor colleagues Mike Scher and Alistair Craig, both writing in the FCPA Blog, respectively asked why we in the compliance community had not protested against FIFA corruption louder and what took the DOJ so long to prosecute? I have to disagree with both positions. The compliance community had worked to be a part of the solution at FIFA for some time. Both Transparency International and Alexandra Wrage at TRACE International worked to help bring transparency and accountability to FIFA. Both were summarily shown the door by FIFA and specifically Sepp Blatter. Just as an alcoholic cannot get sober until they become ready and willing, FIFA has not, until very recently, been willing or able to face its issues of corruption.

Moreover, even when FIFA gave the appearance about somehow even being remotely concerned about bribery and corruption, it was all for show. It asked former federal prosecutor Michael Garcia to internally investigate allegations of bribery and corruption around the awarding of the 2018 World Cup to Russia and the 2022 World Cup to Qatar, then summarily obstructed his investigation. Finally when Garcia did produce a report, FIFA shelved it and released a sham summary that Garcia promptly disavowed. Garcia resigned from FIFA due to the organization’s conduct over his report and its burial ...

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