Saving FIFA from itself, how the Feds are soccer's good guys

Sepp Blatter and Michel Platini are fighting the 90-day suspensions handed down by FIFA's ethics committee for a $2 million payment Platini received from FIFA in 2011 for work he said he did many years earlier. The case against them, sources told the Associated Press, hinges on the suspicious nature of the transactions: neither could present a written contract justifying the payment.

Nor would Platini have been entitled to collect from FIFA because Swiss law has a five-year statute of limitations on employment compensation. He had said the work had been done in 1998-2002 and explained the delay as being based on FIFA's cash flow problems when he was working for it.

It seems Blatter and Platini could have used (better) legal counsel if indeed they intended for their deal to be above board. That is not a problem today. The FIFA scandals have been a field day for lawyers, particularly Americans lawyers. (Blatter is represented by Richard Cullen of Richmond, Virginia, firm McGuireWoods, a close adviser of none other than U.S. presidential candidate Jeb Bush.)

As Reuters reported in its inside look at FIFA in the months since Blatter ordered an election for a new president on Feb. 26, 2016, lawyers are calling the shots at FIFA these days.

"People have got used to the idea that Blatter is FIFA," said a FIFA source told Reuters. "But the reality now is that Blatter is not FIFA and FIFA is not Blatter."

The most powerful person at FIFA is its head of legal affairs Marco Villiger. His team is being advised by the U.S. law firm Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, which was hired to conduct an internal investigation of FIFA parallel to the criminal investigations being conducted by U.S. and Swiss authorities.

Such investigations are common in organizations where individuals have conducted massive criminal operations. They show good faith to authorities, and they also serve to help the bottom line, calming the concerns of sponsors, and support the cases of reformers pushing for change within FIFA.

As Rebecca R. Ruiz reported in the New York Times, Federal authorities, who handed down indictments against 14 FIFA officials and sports marketing executives in May, are framing FIFA as the victim of a criminal enterprise, hijacked by crooks. It allows the U.S. government, as she writes, "to soften the sting of its international crackdown, which some have called an overreach of power. It has positioned itself as more a savior of soccer than a punitive policeman — and it has given FIFA a narrative it is eager to advance amid its disgrace."

“The government structured the indictment in a way that’s not just legally necessary but more palatable to other countries,” said Marc A. Agnifilo, a lawyer with Brafman & Associates and a former federal prosecutor in New Jersey.

A  legal strategy to FIFA being framed as the victim is necessary because commercial bribery -- in this case executives at Concacaf and Conmebol accepting bribes from marketing agencies interested in buying media rights -- is a crime in the state of New York only if it goes against the interests of an employer.

“If FIFA is bad, too — if it wasn’t harmed — then you don’t have a bribe under New York State law,”  Agnifilo told the Times. “You have racketeering charges, wire fraud and money laundering charges, but, at the end of the day, the essence of the wrongdoing here is bribery.”
1 comment about "Saving FIFA from itself, how the Feds are soccer's good guys".
  1. Santiago 1314, October 14, 2015 at 3:41 p.m.

    We've got a "Good" Guy at USSF President, Sunil...Maybe he can go to FIFAfia and we can Get a SOB (or DOB) to Fire Klinsmann...I would love to see Mia Hamm FIRE HIM...

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