FIFA Corruption – Above the Law

Wowed by FIFA.  Can small countries FIFA votes be bought for the price of some grass, bleachers and fencing?
Wowed by FIFA. Can small countries FIFA votes be bought for the price of some grass, bleachers and fencing?

The arrests in Zurich of the sports world’s most powerful executives yesterday may signal an important change in what is arguably the most popular sport in the world.

For decades, FIFA, its President Sepp Blatter, and his executive team have been unaffected by consistent accusations of corruption related to their choice of sports venues for the World Cup, regional events, and their doling out stadiums to small countries around the world as part of their elections strategy.

For years they have generally been viewed as above the law of nations.

I saw first hand the swooning of government officials in East Timor during Mr. Blatter’s visit. The national police and their counterparts in Portugal’s Guardia National Republica, provided 24-hour security for Mr. Blatter as he was afforded the attention reserved for heads of state.

Leaving behind a small football pitch and small office building named after the local Prime Minister, Mr. Blatter was whisked away to the next venue, ahead of the June 2011 elections.

Drop a little candy to get the votes of the smaller countries.

Receive a lot of candy for the choice of the World Cup venue.

Dramatic corruption allegations surround FIFA. The corruption case against the FIFA officials will doubtless shed more light on the truth of FIFA’s operations that goes beyond allegations.

Sepp Blatter ran unopposed in the 2011 FIFA elections and was re-elected for a fourth term with 186 of the 203 votes.

In his campaign, Blatter had stipulated that if re-elected in 2011, he would not run again for president.  Despite this promise, he is seen as the front-runner for the next elections.

Collecting corruption evidence against high ranking officials is quite difficult. Especially when that evidence may implicate other important officials in national governments around the world.

Thus, it is not at all clear what results will flow from the arrests and whether Blatter will eventually be included.   Regardless of the legal outcome, responsibility for the state of FIFA’s affairs falls squarely on Mr. Blatter’s shoulders.

Catching people in wrong doing AFTER it has occurred is far more expensive than anti-corruption through prevention.  The harms have already occurred and prosecution will never truly make individuals or society “whole.”

For this reason the importance of the FIFA arrests may be their role as a catalyst for change in FIFA and other international sports activities in the future.

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Social Media and Anti-Corruption


Cover-NewToolsforFightingCorruptioninOrganizationsThere is a battle happening in Traditional and Social Media right now.  A battle for your mind.

The battles attempt to define the reality of what is happening in Gaza and in Ukraine. Victory will go to the side that successfully convinces us what to believe is the “truth” in these countries.

This same problem goes beyond national political maneuvering to include to anti-corruption.  (And often includes the same players.

Indeed, the truth about things is difficult to sort out, certainly in “traditional media” where nations are engaged in the paid PR Battles (Admittedly, this is only one side of the PR battle but you can see a sampling of Russia’s PR program Here. And Here.   Similar references can be found on national PR strategies involving Gaza, the U.S. and every other country.

Using the information channels to influence our opinions is not especially underhanded, in my view. It’s advocacy. Its advocacy until it becomes deception to create public support based upon lies and disinformation.

Unfortunately that leaves us with few alternatives for finding the truth of things.

The Social Media Battle Ground

As governments begin to intrude into the social media space as part of their effort to advocate and inform our opinions we will all face some interesting challenges.

We will have to sort through the wild collection of:

  • Informed opinion,
  • Uniformed opinion,
  • Advocacy, and
  • Disinformation and Deception.

Fake public interest and “support” is increasingly well known in social media. Indeed, in some instances it is openly encouraged.

I don’t have any answers on this, but the basic truth is that more transparency (observation of the truth) can only help. And social media, indeed any media, can be an essential tool to improve situations.  I’ve talked about this here and here.

Cutting through the fictitious public comment/support/protests will be an increasing challenge.

But where “traditional” reporters are only paid to report the sexy, violent or sensational, where is the actual transparency and accountability that is needed to influence good behavior?

Traditional media is simply not enough. I’ll take the disorganized mob of social media over “traditional media.”

I look forward to your thoughts.

Brian Pinkowski

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If you are looking for everyday tools to help you in your fight against corruption – try these:






Tales from the Wild: “You give me 30% and I’ll make sure our government partners get their share.”

Offering a bribe

cimg4154.jpg“You give me the 30% of the deal, and I’ll make sure our government partners get their share.”

Excuse me? You’ll do what?

If you work internationally, you will invariably find that people don’t understand the FCPA, and don’t understand what they are asking. I’ve heard it for matters as small as a “cup of tea” in Kenya and a “cup of coffee” in Albania.

I’ve also heard it in blunt and large terms as I quoted above from an actual conversation. Continue reading “Tales from the Wild: “You give me 30% and I’ll make sure our government partners get their share.””

Corruption Prevention and the Art of War

Gradients in Anti-Corruption. B. Pinkowski
Gradients in Anti-Corruption. B. Pinkowski

The Highest form of generalship is to balk the enemy’s plan. Sun Tzu

The key idea in corruption prevention is . . . prevention. To stop something from happening before it can occur. Indeed, prevention is the heart of “anti-corruption.” This is discussed further in Gradients of Anti-Corruption and is depicted in the graphic above.

The Gradients are:

  1. Awareness
  2. Prevention
  3. Detection
  4. Correction

Continue reading “Corruption Prevention and the Art of War”

Fear, Social Media and Anti-Corruption

Corruption Complaint form
Can’t I Just Complain About it on Twitter?

When I write about the role of social media and anti-corruption I typically get a couple of types of responses.

Group 1.   Social Media is Chaos

This group contains people who are concerned about the undisciplined and seemingly ungovernable nature of social media.  It is, in the view of some of my colleagues, a dangerous environment where lies and mean spirited comments can take on a life of their own and the originators of the comments are not accountable for the damage they may cause. Continue reading “Fear, Social Media and Anti-Corruption”

Integrity Standards, Awareness and Cultural Standards



In an interesting discussion about the possibility of a “Global Integrity Standard,” a friend of mind offered the following touch of realism:

“Focussing on getting a better codification of an integrity standard is not without merit, especially when there are either – cultural issues which can confuse agreement on what are breaches of acceptable integrity, or, – cultural issues which can be dressed-up and co-opted to legitimise self-interested corruption. However, in many jurisdictions, having a better written document setting out standards of integrity will have little if any impact on behaviour.”  Shane Cave

I am in agreement with my good friend, Mr. Cave.

Codification of an integrity standard as the result of reasoned agreement is a good start, but there are many and significant cognitive and cultural conflicts that prevent people from following through.  I discussed this in Gradients in Anti-Corruption.

I am sure I am not alone in this, but I have run into many examples of government or business representatives that openly discuss the new and written rules and demonstrate apparent awareness of these required behaviors.  However, these same officials will turn around and carry out behavior that is in direct violation of those rules.

These individuals can be found in the governments of developing countries.  However, they are just as easily found in the government of “developed countries” and donor organizations.

It is an incomplete analysis to say that these individuals are corrupt or dishonest in their intentions.  While they may be flawed human beings (like the rest of us), they are basically good and decent people.  I believe the problem is more fundamental.  I find lack of awareness and the inability to reconcile the integrity standards with cultural norms for acceptable behavior.

I have see this borne out when I have discussed the seemingly contradictory behavior and been met with confusion from the officials.  They couldn’t see the contradiction.  It was as if I had begun speaking in a language they didn’t  understand.  (For example the Anti-Corruption Official that provides his wife 100% personal use, including fuel and maintenance, of donor or government vehicle.)

Behavior that is acceptable within the cultural norms was cognitively “cordoned off” from evaluation of the behavior against the legal or newly codified integrity standards.

They were unaware of the contradictions and struggled with reconciliation of the evaluative criteria between culture and law.

Successful development and issuance of an integrity standard, whether a matter of criminal law or the softer notions of integrity, requires substantive attention to identifying and overcoming the “cognitive blind spots”, and reconcile personal and institutional behavior to alignment with the new standard.

Brian Pinkowski

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Gradients of Anti-Corruption

Gradients in Anti-Corruption.  B. Pinkowski
Gradients in Anti-Corruption. B. Pinkowski

Forensic investigations, by definition, occur AFTER something has taken place.  Despite this basic truth, many Anti-Corruption institutions are focused on “Forensic Accounting” and investigation as part of their Corruption Prevention Programs.

They bring in law enforcement and criminal investigators as their primary tools in Corruption Prevention.

This is a bit like trying to stop people from murder by spending money on Crime Scene Investigators.  The crime has already been committed. Continue reading “Gradients of Anti-Corruption”