Michael Garcia, a Kirkland & Ellis litigation and internal investigations partner and former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, has been named co-chairman of an ethics committee tasked with investigating allegations of corruption at soccer's world governing body.
An executive committee of the Zurich-based Federation Internationale de Football Association, commonly known by its acronym FIFA, announced late Tuesday the unanimous appointment of Garcia and German Judge Hans-Joachim Eckert to head an internal inquiry probing a series of corruption scandals that have embarrassed FIFA executives and prompted Swiss court proceedings.
Garcia, who joined Kirkland in late 2008 after leaving the U.S. Attorney's Office in Manhattan, will lead the investigatory chamber of FIFA's independent ethics committee. He was out of the office on Tuesday and not immediately available for comment about his role. FIFA chose Garcia over Argentine human rights lawyer Luis Moreno Ocampo, who was thought to be the favorite to land the position of chief prosecutor for corruption cases that could be probed by the organization's new ethics arm.
Eckert, a veteran of German jurisprudence, will lead the adjudicatory chamber of FIFA's ethics committee. Both chambers were formed earlier this year when current FIFA president Joseph "Sepp" Blatter -- who has been re-elected four times since succeeding Joao Havelange in 1998 -- approved a bifurcation plan for the 15-member ethics committee. (Click here for a breakdown of those members.)
Switzerland's Supreme Court ordered the release last week of a 42-page report by a Swiss prosecutor, which found that former FIFA president Joao Havelange and executive committee member Ricardo Teixeira -- the former son-in-law of Havelange and president of the Brazilian Football Confederation until his resignation in March -- had received at least $22 million in bribes between 1992 and 2000 connected to the marketing rights for the World Cup, the enormously popular global competition held every four years. Blatter subsequently admitted that he knew about the payments, but claimed they were legal at the time. (The 96-year-old Havelange, who led FIFA for 25 years but is now seriously ill, resigned as a member of the International Olympic Committee last December.)
FIFA has created an independent governance committee to address the allegations of corruption. Peter Goldsmith, a Debevoise & Plimpton litigation partner in London and former attorney general for England, has been serving on that panel as an adviser to FIFA on its anti-corruption efforts. (Other members of the advisory board include Swiss law professor Mark Pieth, Trace International president Alexandra Wrage, and Watergate investigator Michael Hershman, a co-founder of nonprofit Transparency International.)
Goldsmith told Bloomberg last month that FIFA is likely to examine the process by which Russia and Qatar were, respectively, awarded the 2018 and 2022 World Cups. Both choices have been marred by allegations of corruption, despite strong denials of wrongdoing by representatives for the two countries. Leigh Hall, the former Middle East managing partner for SNR Denton, led a team from the firm that advised Qatar on its winning bid. Hall left the firm last month for what SNR Denton described as personal reasons, according to our previous reports. The firm said his departure was unrelated to the FIFA probes.
Latham & Watkins advised a U.S. bid committee on its unsuccessful pitch to host the 2022 World Cup, while British firm Bird & Bird took the lead for England on its ill-fated effort to host the 2018 festivities. Last year The Football Association, the governing body for soccer in England, hired James Dingemans of London's 3 Hare Court to handle a probe into allegations of misconduct by FIFA officials related to that failed bid.
Earlier this month, Latham took top billing for the world's most popular soccer team by advising on a proposed $100 million initial public offering for Manchester United, according to our previous reports. Manchester United plays in the English Premier League, which is in turn being investigated by FIFA for its own alleged betting scandal.