Last week FIFA announced that it had considered the investigation into allegations of corruption into the awarding of the 2018 World Cup tournament to Russia and the 2022 World Cup tournament to Qatar and found “any improper behaviour in the bidding process for the tournament was ‘of very limited scope.’”
This conclusion was made by a FIFA appointed former judge, Hans-Joachim Eckert, who is chairman of the adjudicatory chamber of FIFA’s ethics committee, as reported in the Financial Times by Robert Blitzin.
Eckert had reviewed a 350 page report by investigator Michael Garcia, who is a former U.S. prosecutor now practicing law in New York. Eckert released a 42 page “summary study” of the Garcia report which he claimed supported his decision. Unfortunately for FIFA and Eckert, the report’s author immediately attacked Eckert’s conclusions as it contained “numerous and materially incomplete and erroneous representations of the facts and conclusions detailed in the investigatory chamber’s report.”
What does all of this mean for FIFA? Initially, there certainly could be commercial repercussions. Reinhard Rauball, president of the German football league (DFL), was quoted in the Financial Times that “Europe would have to consider breaking away from Fifa unless the Garcia investigation was published in full.”
In another article in the Financial Times, Alex Baker reported that “The EU’s top sports official is urging Fifa to come clean with findings from its corruption investigation in a warning that signals a Brussels rethink over the commercial freedoms enjoyed by football’s scandal-tarnished governing body.”
What about any criminal issues? A quick Google search reveals that FIFA has offices in both the U.S. and the UK. Given the very broad jurisdiction of the FCPA and perhaps the UK Bribery Act, it does not seem too far a stretch for either the DOJ, the FBI, the UK Serious Fraud Office or even the overseas anti-corruption unit of the London police might want to open an investigation.
Even the Wall Street Journal, in an Op-Ed piece said, “FIFA’s moral failure stands out.”
Thomas Fox is a contributing editor of the FCPA Blog. He’s the founder of the Houston-based boutique law firm tomfoxlaw.com. A popular speaker on compliance and risk-management topics, Fox is also the creator and writer of the widely followed FCPA Compliance and Ethics Blog. His book Lessons Learned on Compliance and Ethics topped Amazon’s bestseller list for international law. He can be contacted here.