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In need of a FIFA revolution

Even at the risk of being utterly, utterly naive: If nothing else works, can we not resort to a revolution against FIFA?

I am not into football. I am not a constitutional expert either, but the stench of an un-elected, non-governmental entity behaving like an unpleasant government, its citizens being the funds it is gathering, is difficult to ignore. So, can’t we try this?

1) Set up a new pot for funds, into which the membership moneys, which I assume are needed to manage footballing competitions, can eventually be paid into.

2) Figure out termination rights and periods under the FIFA association statutes.

3) Through protests in each member country, encourage the leaving of the association. [Sponsors may follow.]

4) Find funder for the interim / have plan for lack of funds.

5) Check for any potential breaches of the existing statutes of the FIFA association and whether there is any basis for applications to freeze funds. [Include individuals in those applications?]

6) Frozen assets could form the basis of a negotiation to transfer assets across to the new pot and structure.

7) Find long-term governance structure for new body. Should sporting and financial decision making competencies be separated? Should the leadership be swapped on a 6 months basis? Should the leadership be made out of three finance officials from different countries? Should all decision-making and money moves be public? [What "commercially sensitive" arguments would be made against this?] Should the audit body be swapped frequently, so that no FIFA-type cemented ties can grow? In addition to the financial transparency, can the new structure have a proper goal to move towards a sporting community that is equally open to men and women and addresses any kind of discrimination.


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Customs Duty?

Customs Duty? When travelling nationally?

Since taking on a new role, I have been pondering what appropriate subjects for this blog are, these days, and have therefore been blogging-silent. When I read this reflection, however, on an attempt to work in Africa, in this case on a film project, I wanted to share it on this blog.

“Is it possible to do business in country XY without corruption?” is a question I read/hear quite frequently. The question arises, even if the business in country XY would be classified as a ‘good cause’. Doing a film project on the tough living conditions in country XY could be such a good cause.

The reason I read this account of working in Africa is a sad one. As for the text itself, I would not have wanted to miss it: Michael Glawogger’s account of working in Africa is full of details for the many shades of grey that are often turned into black or white in the Compliance discussion, when talking about obstacles to a business venture, and the many approaches to overcoming of such obstacles. Wondering why “customs duty” would have to be paid when passing a police barrier nationally, ie within the country, is just one of the details he reveals. He also wonders whether the extra money he is asked to pay can be compared to a New York waiter asking for his tip and which one of them is more direct in his demands.

I hope you can read his German-language blog. If not, you have to find the many shades of grey in his films. And in his interviews.

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Compliance Gossip: Cake, Sport n All

I sat down in the doctor’s waiting room the other day, laptop on me to make use of any waiting time, but the hand reached for the gossip magazine on the table. After a couple of pages, my heart jumped with joy when I saw that, for a tiny corner of their magazine, they had chosen a compliance topic. (I guess I have learned how many publications don’t want to do that.)

The underlying question of rules/compliance in this case is: What performance-enhancing methods can be used to compete, legally, in a bicycle race. But the finer details reported through Oprah and other channels paint a picture that doesn’t take me back to law school, when we discussed painstakingly whether the shoplifter had the necessary ‘state of mind’ when he passed the tills with stuff in his pockets. Instead, it reminds me more of lessons on how to get through life through networking: How big was the private jet he travelled on? Who (advisers, journalists, etc) could schlepp along? Who was part of repeatedly putting his side of the story into the public domain? What happened to people who tried to suggest a different story? Could they still be part of the sport at the same high level, if they did so?

That ‘power game’ we know of, but don’t seem to take into account so much when a new set of regulations is proposed. The ‘rules’ just tell you that certain evidence of wrongdoing needs to be put forward, but remain silent on the power game kicking in that might move relevant evidence to a drawer instead of moving it at the center of a discussion whether someone’s actions need to be stopped.

So that’s what she did, according to the gossip magazine, the ex-girlfriend of the cyclist, tell the authorities about his blood transfusions. And she gets a big slap on the wrist for doing so. If the difficulty of breaking the wall of the power game had been on the mind of the journalist writing this piece, they might have at least phrased it as a question: “Should she have gone to the authorities?” But putting her at the bottom of the page was the only thing that fitted into their concept. If done with any hint of irony, I’d need to be shown where that was.

We don’t really get to observe too often what it means to deal with an ongoing onslaught of a power game, – ‘cos it’s usually hidden. TV contestants on the receiving end of an ‘online power game community’, that, we can observe. Here, a contestant of The Great British Bake Off, claims: “I have shied away from the more decorative side of baking for fear of being dismissed as silly. I’ve served every bake with a side of self-deprecation as anything more than total meekness may be mistaken for the sort of confidence that other bakers have been lambasted for.”

I don’t know whether this is a comment on what she did on the show, as I assume all was filmed by the time the comments started. But if it is a case that she didn’t do something she wanted to do, for fear of that power game, when the views on how much colour on a cake should be far less controversial than whether you support someone on what might be an illegal sporting venture, that gives us an indication how hard it is for a tiny observation ‘what he did seemed to be against the rules’ to prevail.

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GQ Awards: An Award for Compliance?

I am back on the subject of whistleblowers, because we discussed it quite a bit in a recent seminar. And then I read this article and connecting the two is a bit daring, but bear with me:

“Whistleblowers, – should there be increased legislation for their protection?” That’s a question one can safely ask at any Compliance event, it is ‘mainstream’ you could say.

“Whistleblowers, – how likely is it that someone embedded in a department or company for many years actually blows the whistle on discovery of what they might call ‘malpractice’?”

That’s not such a standard question and we tried to explore it a bit further, looking at Luhmann’s concept of “social systems”.

What’s the background?, you might say. The idea of avoiding unnecessary rubbish, I guess, unnecessary compliance-hotline-cards rolled out to employees worldwide, just to have something to show, when, really, no one would dare to say that the source of some amazing turnover might have to be looked at more closely.

It doesn’t HAVE to happen, I am just saying that it is possible.

So I am asking the very general ‘how-likely-are-they-to-whistleblow’ question very tentatively, because I am generally not very confident in posing ‘fringe questions’.

Cocktails: photo by mountainhiker on flickr. "Hugo": A "Hugo"-drink (not pictured) is quite in fashion at the moment. Something being "for Hugo" in Vienna means being useless.

And thus my questions are getting even more tentative, if I am wondering whether Russel Brand’s appearance at the GQ awards can teach us something about this ‘how likely’ question.

‘Don’t bite the hand that feeds you’ is, I guess, the rule that he is accused of having broken  (more…)

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Football is a gift

Have you ever been involved in, or consulted on, the drafting of a gifts-and-entertainment-policy for your company?

If so, was it a long-winded process?  Did one person suggest 5 (Euros, Dollars, Pounds, etc) was the limit? Did another person go for 30? Did someone say ‘a pen and nothing more’? Did someone else try to twist their arm saying ‘what about calendars, they are so common’? Did someone interject with ‘but what about calendars that sell on ebay for a couple of 100’?

Your discussions might have been even deeper. Someone might have suggested that a 30 (Euro) limit means different things, whether you are in Bangkok or in Zuerich. Someone very clever might suggest linking the limit to the average salary in that country. Bingo.

Whatever your discussions, you might have left feeling you really worked hard for this, when the policy is finally implemented.  So, how would you suddenly feel, if someone at the company gets approval for a football weekend in London that pretty much everyone you know is dying to attend.  Just to be clear, flight, hotel and ticket, all sponsered by a business partner.

Would you dig that policy out again and think: Was it worth it, all the effort distinguishing between gifts costing 5 or 6 bobs?  At the very least, you might feel like a Michelin star chef who has just laid out a six course menu, only for the guest to say: can you please wrap it all into one take-away foil …  (more…)

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A Tale of Two Cities

Picture a “grandmother” (as the papers emphasise in their headlines) from your local area. She might be sitting down for cake with a friend, pointing out that she still needs to pick up hair dye on her way back home to do her roots. Then picture a former finance minister and party-VIP, possibly in a Porsche.

How could those two contrasting characters end up in the same blogpost on Compliance? The contrast becomes even starker when you find out that the “grandmother” is not out having cake, but awaiting a death sentence for drug trafficking in an Asian jail. In order to appear balanced, I would now have to go into the drug-related aspects of the story, which I won’t. The only aspects of the two “characters” that are relevant to point to a Compliance issue are as follows:

sunglasses in Tales of two Cities

Sunglasses: Can hide a torment. A VIP-face. Could not hide corruption in the case of this jailed official who bribed his way out of jail to go and watch the tennis, see

Newspaper reports on the second character have focused on what gifts or “VIP-conditions” are common (“branchenueblich”, as the CEO of the luxury car company called it) between politicians and companies with at least a theoretical interest in influencing legislation. The side investigating the matter (at first a tax matter) wants to find out whether the company granting the VIP deal profited from the arrangement in any way (no, they say at the company), whereas that very company, ie the side with the friendly letter to the then minister, says that it was only the thinking power (“Querdenker”) of the minister that one was admiring.  So much (or little) on scenario Two, you can dig through the web for more.

Newspaper reports on the first character have questioned why a co-operating and subsequently convicted drug-mule received a death sentence (and a much higher sentence than requested by the prosecution), while others alleged to be involved received far more lenient sentences. This difference in sentences may be purely (more…)

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Male, single, is looking for….

Today, someone told me he was single. It didn’t come with the usual feeling of shock (“oh my god, you broke up with x”), since I only knew very little about him.

Here is the list of what I knew about him before: (more…)

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A “fixer” for a Chinese business venture

If a business from Germany or the UK arranges meetings in China to explore ideas, this is no doubt an expensive project.  No one wants it to go wrong, just because you sat in the wrong chair in the meeting room, or your shoes, your facial expression was inappropriate for the occasion. These and similar difficulties are the subject of an article in the online version of International Trade Magazine.  The advice, from the Institute of Diplomacy and Business, is to use a ‘fixer’, a cultural coach, to avoid such problems. (more…)

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Doing a runner

Like this running tree, I have been moving around this week quite a bit, holding meetings and talks. And like this running tree, one of my slides out of my slide deck had done a runner, between sending the slides to the organisers and my actual talk: a (speaker’s) cliffhanger I could later ponder over while having one of my best meals ever in a town I had never previously set a foot into.

Another meeting (also this week), this time our discussions provided the cliffhanger: How many of those whose job it is to sell (on behalf of their company) manage this without a helping hand from precious invites or gifts? And is there enthusiasm among those sellers for collecting anonymous answers to this question from their closest circles, – as a way of taking charge of a tricky subject, not leaving it to a slightly removed Compliance department? We couldn’t agree on answers in our meeting, but if you are a seller, look at this suggestion for an anonymous survey and let me know what you think.

Hopefully, there’ll be further updates on this topic. ‘Anonymity’, however, was not a word my neighbour on the plane was familiar with. While embarking on some silly-sounding leadership talk on the phone to a colleague (“we are the leaders, we need to demonstrate our leadership by sticking together”), he proceeded to spell out the full names of at least four people in their respective teams he did not rate and thus did not care about, if whatever fancy plan he was pushing meant bad news for them. Will try to book an airline seat next time round that gives me Episode 2 of these ‘leadership games’.

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It’s time for Action

I came across this on the US Department of Justice’s website.  As marketing efforts go, this is quite a menu to choose from.  Luckily, I had to do neither of what was on offer:

reporting and locating

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