Pressure from U.S. prosecutors may be best chance of FIFA reform

Sun Jul 26, 2015 12:43pm EDT
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By Mica Rosenberg

NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. prosecutors could eventually try to impose a court-appointed monitor on FIFA to ensure that soccer's corruption-hit governance body cleans up its act, according to attorneys who have helped troubled companies and other entities to reform.

FIFA's decision last week to establish its own task force to propose reforms has been blasted by critics who say the organization has shown over many years it is incapable of transforming from within.

    Leading FIFA sponsors Coca-Cola Co and Visa Inc have joined labor union and anti-corruption groups in demanding FIFA agree to the establishment of a fully independent reform commission. Visa CEO Charlie Scharf said on Thursday that FIFA's response to corruption allegations were "wholly inadequate" and showed a lack of awareness of the need for change.

But there is little sign that Zurich-based FIFA will voluntarily heed calls for an independent commission or major change.

Another path to reform could emerge out of the ongoing U.S. court case against nine current and former soccer officials from FIFA and related groups, plus five company executives. They were all charged in May with bribery-related crimes. And prosecutors say the investigation is far from over.

Legal experts say that in many other cases outside monitors have been installed by U.S. prosecutors to clean up corruption or other bad behavior in organizations as diverse as major banks and labor unions.

Michael Cherkasky, who is now serving as the monitor in global banking group HSBC after it settled money laundering allegations with U.S. authorities in 2012, said prosecutors could choose to take the FIFA case beyond individual prosecutions and turn to broader reform.

    "What we've found is putting someone in jail doesn't change the culture of an organization," said Cherkasky, a former prosecutor who has also been a monitor in the Los Angeles Police Department and in the Teamsters union. "If you have a structural-cultural problem where there is enormous ability for the people in power to create great wealth and act corruptly, then the next person frequently takes advantage of that structure," he said.   Continued...

The flags of the continental soccer federations fly in front of the FIFA headquarters during a meeting of the FIFA executive committee in Zurich, Switzerland July 20, 2015. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann