The U.S. SEC Is Investigating FIFA For Bribery

FIFA LogoThe Securities and Exchange Commission’s enforcement division has been on fire as of late, having brought 755 cases and collected an agency record $4.1 billion in 2014. Now, it’s looking to take on a rather unique challenge: FIFA, the Fédération Internationale de Football Association.

Reuters reports that U.S. securities regulators are investigating several companies linked to FIFA and other soccer bodies currently entangled in a major corruption scandal. The aim of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, which is conducting the civil probe, is to determine whether U.S. federal bribery laws were possibly violated.

The probe, which is in its early stages, may not find any wrongdoings or enforcement actions, but it does open a new front in a wide-ranging investigation into bribery involving soccer officials, marketing executives, and various other companies. In late May, the U.S. indicted nine soccer officials — most of whom held positions with FIFA — and five executives for a range of offenses related to more than $150 million of alleged bribes and kickbacks.

Although there’s no confirmation, Reuters’ source alleges that the SEC’s probe centers on publicly-traded companies that have been involved in soccer contracts, such as Nike. Despite the fact that the company hasn’t yet been specifically been named or charged with anything, the description of a $160 million, 10-year-deal signed by “Sportswear Company A” matches the details of Nike’s landmark 1996 deal to become the Brazilian national team’s footwear and apparel supplier.

In late May, Nike said that the U.S. government hadn’t accused it of violating the law, or knowingly taking part in a kickback scheme. In a recent statement, a Nike spokesperson said that the athletic apparel company “is committed to cooperating with any government investigation into the FIFA matter.”

So far, the investigation has led to the arrest of former FIFA vice president Jeffrey Webb on charges of racketeering, fraud, and bribery. More specifically, he’s accused of accepting $7 million in bribes from sports marketing executive Aaron Davidson in exchange for exclusive rights to soccer tournaments.

In order to make bail, his wife Kendra Gamble-Webb surrendered a pair of diamond earrings, a diamond bracelet and necklace, pearl earrings, a diamond-and-pearl necklace, her diamond wedding ring, a 2015 Ferrari, a 2014 Range Rover, a Rolex, a Hublot watch, a 401K account and a partnership equity interest in a company whose name was redacted.

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