On May 27, 2015, former U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced an investigation into Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) that has exposed illegal bribery schemes amounting to over $150 million. As reported by Reuters, U.S. prosecutors recently reached an agreement valued at $112.8 million with Argentine sports media group, Torneos y Competencias SA, after the conglomerate was charged with bribing soccer officials in order to acquire broadcasting rights for the 2018, 2022, 2026, and 2030 World Cup games along with paying bribes and giving kickbacks to high-ranking soccer officials for over 15 years in order to obtain other lucrative media and marketing rights. Approved by U.S. District Judge Pamela Chen, this marks the first agreement reached by a company implicated in the FIFA corruption probe since the news officially broke nearly 2 years ago.
To most in the sports community, the FIFA scandal seemed to be one that was carried out by non-U.S. entities. However, U.S. prosecutors contend that Torneos, “paid the bribes and kickbacks with the agreement and support of the U.S. broadcasting company affiliates and their representatives.” In fact, U.S. corporation AT&T owns 40% of Torneos and the Argentinian sports media group also paid million of dollars of bribes each years to support an affiliate of Twenty-First Century Fox, another U.S. corporation.
Although Torneos is the first of the organizations involved in the FIFA corruption scandal to agree to a large settlement deal, nearly half of the 43 entities charged during the FIFA investigations have pled guilty. While it was never directly stated that the Torneos agreement was influenced by their U.S. affiliations, it will be interesting to see if others involved in the FIFA investigation, regardless of their relations with U.S. companies, follow Torneos example and agree to deals with U.S. prosecutors. If not, both the U.S. government and FIFA groups could be dealing with further investigations and settlement negotiations for the next several years.
Nick Aquart is a Sports Highlight Contributor for the Harvard Journal of Sports and Entertainment Law and a current first year student at Harvard Law School (Class of 2019).