May 27, 2015
Indicting FIFA's Functionaries
Posted by David Zaring

The FIFA case by the US is interesting because:

  • It is a RICO case - so the government's using a statute designed to go after the mob to clean up an international organization.
  • It is the definition of the extraterritorial application of American laws.  To be sure, FIFA has availed itself of the American market, but only one American has been indicted in this case, and he looks like a minor player.  It's not clear how much time the defendants (they're all from this hemisphere) spend in America.  They are being indicted not because of what they have done to American victims, but rather how they have enriched themselves at the expense of FIFA, which has a relationship with America.  Absent diplomatic immunity issues, the same sort of theory could be used to go after officials in a wide array of international organizations.
  • Nonetheless, it looks like a typical white collar investigation.  They've got an informant - Chuck Blazer - and now they've used him to go after a bunch of functionaries he knew.  Surely they will try to get these defendants to turn on Sepp Blatter, the head of FIFA, and those close to him. 
  • For that reason, I could also see a deal done.  If Blatter drops his re-election bid, this investigation could stop with some promised reforms and a few convictions.
  • It looks like no government officials were bribed - this is not an FCPA case.  It would be surprising, but I guess sometimes RICO alone is enough.  The underlying counts are wire fraud - including the controversially expansive honest services wire fraud - and money laundering.
  • Here's a somewhat related paper by Christina Parajon Skinner on disciplining international actors through RICO.  Her case study is Donziger/Ecuador:  Download Skinner on rico and io ethics

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