In two new guest posts at the Washington Post’s Volokh Conspiracy blog, Professor William Birdthistle unpacks the United States’ recent indictment of FIFA on charges of racketeering, bribery, money laundering, and fraud. In the first post, “Americanized football” (May 27, 2015), Prof. Birdthistle pursues the immediate questions raised by the indictment:
Why is the United States bringing these charges? Perhaps a secret competition was held amongst international prosecutors, and we won the bidding over Qatar and Russia? No, that would never happen. Countries like the United Kingdom, Germany, and Spain might be far more likely candidates to police corruption in the game they love so much. But if they struck at King Blatter and missed, they could suffer serious reprisals from an organization that has amply proved its unprincipled style of governance. The United States may be the only country in the world both powerful enough and indifferent to soccer enough to hunt down FIFA.
In the second post, “Burst Blatter” (June 2, 2015), Prof. Birdthistle looks at FIFA President Sepp Blatter, who was not named in the indictment but who resigned from his post this week:
The New York Times reported Monday that a $10 million bribe for the South African World Cup had been authorized by Jérôme Valcke, Sepp’s bro-hugging number two at FIFA. FIFA, in true gangland style, immediately identified a dead person as the true perp, but documents published Tuesday showed Valcke’s name on key correspondence.
What exactly was Valcke’s authority? FIFA said that Valcke, as secretary general, “has authority to make transactions.” But organizational by-laws, even of nonprofits, don’t typically authorize officers simply “to make transactions” — such unlimited authority would invite embezzling officers to fire off billions to a Cayman account and then disappear. Surely that couldn’t happen at FIFA, could it? Credible organizations often either specify a dollar amount up to which the person has spending authority or require a board resolution authorizing the officer to make specific payments. So perhaps Valcke made the payments without authorization or made them with Blatter’s full knowledge.