Sunday, December 18, 2011

Independence Scorecard for FIFA's "Independent" Governance Committee

[UPDATE #2 12/20: Two names have been added since this post was first written, updates noted below.]

[UPDATE: Jens Weinreich reposts the below at his blog and adds some additional information and commentary. Thanks Jens!]

FIFA has empaneled a committee focused on helping the organization to reform itself in the direction of "good governance."  Sepp Blatter calls the committee the "Independent Good Governance Committee." However, media reports and readily available information shows that  the committee is far from independent.

My scorecard shows, of the 12 announced spots on the committee:
2 are independent
4 are independent pending full disclosure of financial ties to FIFA
6 are not independent (including its chair)
Below are the members who have been announced for the committee and my judgement on their independence from FIFA and rationale.  I add a ** to those judgments where further information would be helpful, but as FIFA operates without a conflict of interest policy that mandates disclosure of potential conflicts, information is hard to come by. I err on the side judging independence when information is lacking.
NOT INDEPENDENT -- Chair, Mark Pieth, University Of Basel -- Pieth (or Pieth's institution) was paid $128,000 by FIFA to produce a scoping report, immediately prior to being appointed to chair the committee. Obviously not independent.

INDEPENDENT -- Leonadro Grosso, FIFPro President-- FIFPro is an association of professional football player associations, formed in 1965.

NOT INDEPENDENT -- Lydia Nsekera, President Burundi Football Association -- The Burundi FA is a member of FIFA. Obviously not independent.

**INDEPENDENT -- Peter Goldsmith, former UK Attorny General and now partner at Debevoise & Plimpton, LLC-- There is some evidence that  Debevoise & Plimpton may have financial ties to FIFA (e.g., in advising on a $250M infrastructure project associated with EURO 2012). Such a relationship may or may not compromise independence, I just don't know, hence the two stars.

INDEPENDENT -- Alexandra Wrage, President of TRACE -- TRACE states on its website: "Neither Ms. Wrage nor TRACE will accept any fees or travel expenses for Ms. Wrage's participation on the IGC."

**INDEPENDENT -- Michael Herschman, President of The FairFax Group --The FairFax group helps to advise companies about crisis managment and risk mitigation. It is not known what, if any, financial relationship the Group has had with FIFA now or in the recent past, hence the two stars.

**INDEPENDENT -- Guillermo Jorge, Guillermo Jorge & Asociados -- The firm specializes in "in the design and implementation of corporate strategies and public policies dealing with business ethics and the prevention of corruption and money laundering." Once again there is no information on the firm's current or past financial ties to FIFA, hence the two stars.

**INDEPENDENT -- James Klotz, partner at Miller Thomson LLC -- Miller Thomson is a business law firm, again there is no information available on the firms current or past relationships with FIFA. Two stars.

NOT INDEPENDENT -- François Morinière, CEO of Groupe L’Équipe - Groupe Amaury -- This corporate entity is a corporate partner with FIFA for its Ballon D'Or Award.
Others to be added include:
NOT INDEPENDENT -- Sunil Gulati, president US Soccer Federation -- USSF is a member of FIFA.  Obviously not independent. [UPDATE 12/20: Gulati has been added to the formal list.]

NOT INDEPENDENT -- unnamed Asian sponsor

NOT INDEPENDENT -- an unnamed club representative [UPDATE 12/20: This slot has been filled by Carlos Heller, major shareholder in Universidad de Chile.]
If I was a reporter, I'd be asking the 6 members with two stars to disclose publicly their financial relationships with FIFA (or lack thereof). If they are unwilling to disclose such information to allow such a judgment, I'd move them to "not independent." But in this exercise I have erred on the side of judging independence of these organizations, but absent disclosure it is not at all clear that such a judgment is warranted.

The bottom line is that FIFA's "Independent Good Governance Committee" is far from independent.


  1. You need to understand Blatter when viewing FIFA's activities. He's bent, and if a truly open regime were to take over at FIFA Blatter would most likely end up in jail. Therefore no spotlight will be allowed to shine on FIFA's shenanigans.

    Having accepted that, the various activities surrounding a Governance committee make more sense.

    First of all, Blatter has prevaricated for more than a year. Secondly, Pieth has said he won't examine the past and has trumped up a superficially justifiable excuse.

    Third, as Andrew Jennings has pointed out, the reason the Swiss Court documents re. ISL have not been released is because FIFA have taken legal action to prevent their release. Blatter then gets on his hind legs to pretend that FIFA are working hard to secure their release. All FIFA have to do is to STOP working hard to prevent their release.

    I'm a bit surprised at Pieth, as this will likely ruin his record of probity in public positions. I don't understand why he and organisations like Transparency are prepared to engage with Blatter.

    It's clear he's the key to the problem of massive corruption within FIFA, he will definitely never preside over an investigation worthy of the name.

    Once that's understood, you'll be able to make sense of the steps that will inevitably follow. There will be no independent investigation of FIFA instigated by Blatter.

  2. Thanks Bernard for the comment, just FYI TI has severed their relationship with FIFA.

  3. Hi...I'm a journalist from Argentina. I've been investigating to write a story about this, and I have a couple of questions I would like to ask you:

    According to what I've read, 12 men/women will be in the IGC. You've "only" named nine of them, and I was wondering if you could name the other three?

    The other question I had was about the link to the Basel Institute of Governance you share in this post.

    When I got to that page, I noticed another argentinian was in the list: Carlos Heller (a well known banker/politician, who once ran for the Boca Juniors presidency). The question is: What's the difference between the list you wrote and the list in that link?

    By the way...I discovered your blog a few months ago, and I would like to congratulate you for it.


    PS: Sorry for the spelling mistakes

  4. Thanks Matias, a few replies:

    1. The other 3 members have yet to be named, see:

    2. Carlos Heller has been added to the list since I did this post. I will update with his addition, thanks!

    And thanks for the kind words ;-)

  5. Sunil Gulati has also been added to the University of Basel list.

    Heller is apparently the "club representative"

    The "Asian sponsor" has yet to be named.

  6. Matias, I accidentally deleted your nice note, Thanks for the comments!