Exclusive: SEC launches civil probe into FIFA bribery case - source

Fri Jul 17, 2015 8:03pm EDT
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By Sarah N. Lynch

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. securities regulators are examining the behavior of several companies with links to FIFA or other soccer bodies caught up in a major corruption scandal to see if there were possible violations of U.S. federal bribery laws, a person with knowledge of the matter said.

The civil probe, which is in its early stages and may not lead to any findings of wrongdoing or enforcement action, is being conducted by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

It opens a new front in a wide-ranging investigation by the U.S. and Swiss authorities into bribery involving soccer officials, marketing executives and various companies. In late May, the U.S. indicted nine soccer officials - most of whom held positions at FIFA - and five executives for a range of offences related to more than $150 million of alleged bribes and kickbacks.

The SEC probe centers on publicly-traded companies who have been involved in soccer contracts, such as athletic shoes and sportswear company Nike Inc, said the source, who asked not to be named because of the non-public nature of the investigation.

The exact scope of the probe and the names of other companies being scrutinized could not be learned.

An SEC spokeswoman declined to comment.

Although Nike has not been specifically named or charged with any wrongdoing, the company was swept into the scandal when U.S. prosecutors in the indictment described bribes and kickbacks in connection with a landmark 1996 Nike deal in Brazil.

The description of the $160 million, 10-year deal signed by "Sportswear Company A" matched exactly the details of Nike's agreement to become the footwear and apparel supplier and sponsor of the Brazilian national team, which at that time was the most successful in the world.   Continued...

A sign for the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is pictured in the foyer of the Fort Worth Regional Office in Fort Worth, Texas June 28, 2012. REUTERS/Mike Stone