On 27 May 2015, one of the most significant criminal prosecutions was announced when the DOJ released a 47-count indictment charging nine present and former officials of FIFA with wire fraud, racketeering, money laundering, conspiracy and other offences. While corruption was not a pleaded offence, given FIFA’s status, in the eyes of the public and the media, it was all about corruption in big business sport.
The FIFA charges involves allegations against various officials, regional federations and sports marketing companies, that they engaged in a criminal enterprise for over 20 years in soliciting and receiving bribes in exchange for lucrative media and marketing rights associated with football matches and tournaments including several past World Cups. One senior official, the US citizen Chuck Blazer, admitted to a range of illegal conduct in connection with the awards of the 1998 World Cup to France and the 2010 World Cup to South Africa. While the indictments do not plead any FCPA offences, they clearly demonstrate the DOJ’s use of numerous US laws such as racketeering and money laundering to pursue corruption in the broadest of manners. As the US Attorney General said when the charges were announced:
The indictment alleges corruption that is rampant, systemic and deep-rooted both abroad and here in the United States. It spans at least two generations of soccer officials who, as alleged, have abused their position of trust to acquire millions of dollars in bribes and kickbacks. And it has profoundly harmed a multitude of victims, from the young leagues and developing countries that should benefit from the revenue generated by the commercial rights these organisations hold, to the fans at home and throughout the world whose support for the game makes those rights valuable.
In July 2015, comments by DOJ officials in the US media suggest that the DOJ is in the process of creating a new Compliance Counsel position within the Department. It appears the position is designed to be a specialist position to check off an entity’s compliance program, both in form and in substance, before the DOJ decides whether or not to prosecute or to negotiate a resolution. While this highlights the importance for all corporations to have proactive compliance plans and conduct throughout their organisation, it remains to be seen what real difference, if any, this new position will bring to the DOJ regulatory and enforcement attitudes.