Sunday, April 7, 2013

Interview with Alexandra Wrage, FIFA IGC

Alexandra Wrage, president of Trace International, has kindly agreed to be interviewed about her experiences as a member of the FIFA Independent Governance Committee. Recently, Wrage has made some provocative comments about the FIFA reform process which I have discussed here and here.  You can read an interview of Michael Hershman, another FIFA IGC member, that I did last October here.

My questions and Wrage's replies follow.

What has been your role in the FIFA IGC over the past several years?
Shortly after being asked to form the IGC, Mark [Pieth] approached me and asked if I would be interested in working with the group. I have known Mark for many years, both because of his work on the OECD Working Group and because we have worked together, informally, on some “best practices” projects. The group has met several times in Zurich and during the Budapest Congress and, between meetings, has communicated over lengthy conference calls. Calls can be challenging because of the different locations and languages, but the group has worked hard to keep the conversation going between formal meetings. As you know, our next meeting will be next week in Zurich.
The organization that you head, TRACE International, performs due diligence reviews for organizations seeking to comply with laws and guidelines against corruption. If FIFA were to be a client, how would it score from a TRACE perspective?
I’ve never really thought of it that way! TRACE does indeed undertake due diligence, as well as anti-bribery training, consulting and audits. The due diligence work we do is almost always collaborative. That is, we start by asking the entity a series of questions that we then use independent means to either verify or refute. It’s a positive and iterative process that generally results in a very robust due diligence report. So, my answer depends on whether I can assume that FIFA would cooperate and provide all requested information. If not, then they wouldn’t make it through the process.
How effective has the IGC been from the standpoint of an independent advisory body? More broadly, what grade would you give FIFA’s reform process (including the IGC and FIFA itself) and why?
The reform process has had two distinct stages. The formation of the two chambers has been largely successful and, if they are left to run as they should, they will be effective. The second stage has not been successful. This includes the transparency around compensation and benefits, a robust independent vetting process and, critically, independent oversight of the ExCo. These fairly standard and usually uncontroversial steps toward more transparency were dropped by the ExCo. As such, a respectable grade on the first round, and, well, 0/3 has to be a failing grade on the second round, right?
Lord Triesman, former FA president, said last October at the EASM conference in Aalborg, Denmark that "FIFA as it stands is incapable of cultural change, its current leadership will have to go." Do you agree with this statement? Why or why not?
I am not sure I agree that any organization is “incapable of change”; a lot of companies guilty of egregious violations of law have rehabilitated themselves over time. In fact, I think there are few things as powerful as senior management at companies or the leadership at international organizations standing up and saying “it’s time for change; we support it, we’ll fund and staff it and everyone should consider this a top priority”. This would have to be the first of many steps that demonstrated commitment and constancy. FIFA – like any organization - is capable of cultural change, but they have to take the steps necessary to get there and dropping key reforms is going to weaken the process and damage their credibility. Without that, efforts can generate cynicism very quickly and people will begin to conclude that the political will wasn’t there in the first place.
How well is the new investigation/adjudication process working? It is impossible to tell from the outside -- for instance, FIFA rendered a final judgment on Mohammed bin Hammam, but never released a report. Should such investigations resulting in sanctions be made public (A parallel example would be along the lines of information released upon the rendering of CAS judgments)?
First, I think it’s too soon to say whether this process is working. The sample is too small. It seems to be moving in the right direction, but we don’t know the universe of cases, which cases are being pursued and which are not, how priorities are set, etc. I am not suggesting this isn’t being done appropriately, we just don’t have much visibility into it. There is a relatively new practice in the corporate world that might work well here, although not for the most notorious cases. Companies are increasingly willing to publish examples of wrongdoing and the related sanction, but sanitized of individual details. Any measures that would give the larger community more visibility into the process without violating the rights or privacy of individuals would be welcome.
FIFA's issues are not unique, we see similar issues across sport (recent issues involving UCI/WADA/USADA come to mind). Do you have some more general recommendations or thoughts on how to improve sport governance more broadly, based on your term on the FIFA IGC but also your broader experience with corporate governance more generally?
This is difficult, as you know. In the corporate world, where I usually work, if the shareholders want something, they generally get it. In the sports worlds, the fans tend to have no voice, the sponsors have clout, but don’t want to get involved and things just tick over as they always have. But there are other options. These organizations are non-profits, typically, and subject to the laws of the countries in which they’re headquartered. Regulating non-profits is in the public interest. Where is the Swiss government in all of this? The IGC has never had any means by which to compel change, but the government certainly does and has shown an extraordinary lack of initiative or commitment in that respect.
Finally, you have raised the possibility of stepping down from the IGC. What is your current thinking on such an action?
The IGC is meeting next week. The consensus when we last spoke was that we should decide next steps then. It’s difficult for this group, across different time zones and speaking several languages, to communicate by conference call. For my part, I will stay as long as there is any realistic opportunity to effect change and then I’ll leave. Unfortunately, we’re quickly running out of such opportunities.
Thanks to Alexandra for taking the time from a very busy schedule!

1 comment:

  1. Andrew Jennings sends this comment for posting in via email:

    "You will recall that 14 months ago a group of European investigative reporters declined to get involved with Pieth's well-paid farce. As we predicted, his dancing to the crooked Blatter's tune gave the old swindler time to organise his survival.

    Pieth doesn't have any options now – nuclear or sulking - and football is the worse for it. Blatter has announced that his 'reform programme' will be completed at the FIFA congress in May in Mauritius. Blatter knows that Pieth being 'outspoken' is a squeak lost in the breeze.

    We supplied Pieth with a list of serious, some criminal, matters that needed investigation. He ignored it and waffled about 'governance.'
    Some of us should be 'outspoken' that Pieth is taking Blatter's money while bribe-taking crooks like Leoz can vote on his proposals. The only hope now to clean out the FIFA crooks is the FBI investigation. I have preferred to assist that for 3 years, not Pieth's pompous posing.

    And he's so petty: Pieth removed all 4 of us from his mailing list because we disagreed with him!

    Have a look at my analysis today of FIFA's latest Financial Report. Higher profits, higher pay for Blatter's toadies, less money spent on development. And look at the arrival of "DavosMan" imposed by the sponsors to cover up the continuing scandals. It's at:

    And here's the report

    I wonder what the ambitious Sunil Gulati will have to say. We know, don't we. Nothing that would upset Sepp."