The Volokh Conspiracy
Mostly law professors | Sometimes contrarian | Often libertarian | Always independent
Well, the global death watch of Sepp Blatter's career didn't last even one week. After the legal and the farcical developments in the days since Blatter's preposterous reelection, we've quickly arrived at the remarkable announcement of the eternal president's resignation. So, what changed in the last four days?
The New York Times reported Monday that a $10 million bribe for the South African World Cup had been authorized by Jérôme Valcke, Sepp's bro-hugging number two at FIFA. FIFA, in true gangland style, immediately identified a dead person as the true perp, but documents published Tuesday showed Valcke's name on key correspondence.
What exactly was Valcke's authority? FIFA said that Valcke, as secretary general, "has authority to make transactions." But organizational by-laws, even of nonprofits, don't typically authorize officers simply "to make transactions"—such unlimited authority would invite embezzling officers to fire off billions to a Cayman account and then disappear. Surely that couldn't happen at FIFA, could it? Credible organizations often either specify a dollar amount up to which the person has spending authority or require a board resolution authorizing the officer to make specific payments. So perhaps Valcke made the payments without authorization or made them with Blatter's full knowledge.
Just hours ago, Valcke's defense had been to claim he knew nothing about this transaction. But before this incident, he was most newsworthy for getting fired in 2006 for lying about FIFA's dubious financial dealings. Blatter, naturellement, rehired him a few months later. Yet even Valcke didn't seem to have the brazen cheek of his boss. The day after Blatter won his latest reelection, he announced, "I am now the president of everybody" and "I have no concerns about my person." With a little use of the third person, he could have been playing Henry VIII in "Wolf Hall." Valcke, by contrast, immediately canceled his travel plans to Canada for the Women's World Cup, which starts this weekend. Behold the power of extradition!
It was one thing for Blatter, a Swiss citizen, to hide within his own friendly cantons, but the prospect of visiting our cooperative neighbor to the north with the threat of U.S. indictment and extradition lurking appears to have doomed his reign.
Still, we can all enjoy the FIFA biopic, "United Passions," when it opens on Friday. In a flash of cinematic genius, Tim Roth has been cast as a gangster again, one Joseph "Sepp" Blatter—I wonder if his opening line will still be: "Everybody be cool, this is a robbery."