Is this one of the biggest scandals ever, not by money but by scope and the billions of ordinary folk affected all at once? From a quick search of the FCPA Blog archives (see the menu bar above), it looks like it.
What to make of it?
If FIFA had a compliance program, I haven’t yet read about it. Of course, compliance officers are inconvenient for corruption.
But every organization needs checks and balances and that includes a Compliance 2.0 infrastructure where compliance officers have a voice in the big decisions. Our experience and common sense tells us that without Compliance 2.0 checks and balances and an independent chief compliance officer, scandals are going to happen. Who would invest in a big organization without a chief financial officer? The same should be said for chief compliance officers.
There were so many rumors for years about FIFA. Nothing substantive was done about it. Inaction breeds cynicism. Corruption spreads. Good compliance systems keep that from happening. It’s wrong anywhere to tolerate rumors of graft and the lack of a Compliance 2.0 infrastructure.
The day of reckoning has finally come. Four individual defendants have pleaded guilty and are presumably cooperating with prosecutors. Fourteen others are under indictment (and presumed innocent unless and until found guilty in a court of law).
Why was America positioned to prosecute FIFA when many others could not or would not? It would be good to analyze the factors and try to strengthen prosecutors everywhere. A network of prosecutors is important. We live in a time of civilized networks versus the criminal and terror networks.
We should continue to build stronger international law enforcement alliances. And the compliance community should help educate prosecutors and regulators everywhere about the crucial role compliance programs and COs play in deterrence and detection.
In closing, here’s some criticism for the compliance community. We could have been a lot louder and more persistent with warnings about FIFA. Today most of us are saying we knew it would end badly. But where were we in this long-running drama?
If we had made our voices heard, the public would have thanked us as heroes. Instead we left so much unsaid. Why?
Compliance 2.0 has arrived. We made the jump out of the general counsel’s office into a new, dynamic business system. Now it’s time for us to look at the wider world through our new Compliance 2.0 lens. When we see problems, our voices should be heard. Our opinions matter.
We could have helped put integrity back on the playing field for FIFA and the huge swathe of the business world it was part of. From now on, let’s show the rest of the world what Compliance 2.0 can do for them.
Michael Scher is a senior editor of the FCPA Blog. He has over three decades of experience as a senior compliance officer and attorney for international transactions. He can be contacted here.