Monday, March 28, 2016

American Justice

Running out the clock for Wall Street

Bucks County Courier Times
June 6, 2015

Although it is increasingly popular in the United States, where “soccer moms” – and dads – have become an election demographic, most Americans pay slight attention to the sport we call soccer, and the rest of the world calls football. But it is the world’s most popular sport, and followed globally with a passion that many Americans reserve for sex, cars and guns.

That being so, many Americans may not have paid a lot of attention to the enormous scandal that has rocked the sport for almost two weeks, and seems likely to continue. Not so the rest of the world.

The global media and audiences around the world have obsessed over the indictments brought by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) against senior members of the sport’s global, governing body, FIFA.

Which may be one reason why many Americans can’t get that excited about soccer. FIFA? Sounds like a name for a silly dog, maybe a Belgian Airhead.

The indictments read like the kind of charges normally leveled against mafia dons, and came on the eve of the quadrennial congress that was set to re-elect FIFA’s long standing leader. They were announced with great fanfare by the U.S. Attorney General (AG) and followed dawn raids that dragged those indicted FIFA leaders out of their luxury Swiss hotel, where they had gathered for the congress.

If that wasn’t enough drama, there were at least three subtexts to engage fans and talking heads alike.

One is that FIFA is BIG business; revenues in the billions (television broadcast rights, sponsors, etc). The second is the antagonism between the wealthy European groups of soccer clubs (called “confederations”) that dominate the sport, and the many more confederations of the poor and developing world, which dominate FIFA. The third is an allegation that the decision on where to hold the World Cup has long been decided by bribes or some kind of illegal inducement, including the decision to host the 2018 games in Russia.

Is the U.S. DOJ taking a shot at Vladimir Putin? Many wonder.

Big news. World wide. And the verdict was unanimous. Apparently, soccer fans world wide have known for years how corrupt FIFA had become. There was global appreciation and respect for the U.S. DOJ for stepping in to do something about it.

Watching the global newscasts, I heard lots of approving comment, like, “In the U.S., they throw away the key for white collar crime,” “God bless America” (from foreigners!)  and, “No American corporation would stand for this kind of behavior from senior executives” -  meaning the lack of transparency, accountability and enforcement of ethical behavior.

And I thought, if Americans know little of global soccer, the world knows little of American justice.

FIFA looks like Wall Street: an insider’s paradise, opulent headquarters in Zurich, Switzerland, where the real estate is every bit as pricey as Manhattan, and the restaurants where FIFA execs wine and dine every bit as expensive as the swell places the Wall Street banksters frequent.

The executive suite of America’s biggest industry – banking and finance – has proved to be as rife with the same appalling fraud and obsession with personal enrichment as it is alleged of FIFA, and carried out on the same global scale.

But the corruption and avarice at FIFA has apparently done little harm to actual people, while Wall Street’s serial fraud collapsed the global economy, cost millions of Americans their homes, jobs and futures, and drove many millions into poverty.

So, why no early morning raids to haul the CEO of JP Morgan Chase or Citicorp from their mansions to face criminal charges? The DOJ indicted real people among FIFA’s executives. But for Wall Street, the DOJ indicts and fines the banks, leaving unmolested the banksters who wear what must be the dirtiest white collars on the planet.

In American justice, the rich and guilty have a better chance than the poor and innocent.
The DOJ will never throw the red penalty card for the banksters, as they did with executives at FIFA. The DOJ game plan for Wall Street is right out of the playbook of American football: run out the clock on the statute of limitations, so the next AG can say how really, really sorry he or she is that it’s just too late to bring charges against the banksters.

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