People at FIFA could not spell the word ethics. They have suspended two high ranking officers for eight years for a ‘disloyal transaction’ where one paid millions to the other. I gather that ‘disloyal’ means dishonest or a payment made in breach of trust in or breach of fiduciary duty. That is, money from a fund was not applied properly for the purposes of the fund, but to suit the private interests of the parties. The function of an ethics committee is to police ethical standards to protect members and the public. Once a finding of dishonesty at that level in the hierarchy and in that amount of money is made, the only possible remedy is life bans.
The question is: can these people be trusted in their office after this finding of dishonesty against them? The answer is obviously no. And it obviously will not become yes after a holiday, even a long one. This committee has misconceived its function completely. You can tell that by the fines, which presuppose that these people have been enriching themselves mercilessly, but which for these people represent a parking ticket.
And why are not these crooks being prosecuted by the law for the dishonest use of the money of others? Even on their hilarious version, they would get life bans here from acting as directors of public companies.
We are in no position to smirk. There was an unhealthy difference of opinion at Westpac when the company agreed to ‘treat’ accounting procedures in a way that financially benefited directors – there was great unhappiness among shareholders. Accounting issues in the debt of Glencore may have led to a valuation of its worth being bloated by billions of dollars. Innocent investors may have been wiped out by misstatements. Worrying disclosures are now being made about the extent to which spoiled egomaniacs posturing as sponsors of charity are just lining their pockets and boosting their egos while quietly burying their consciences. Now we see the market worth of the business of law firm that went public going through the floor over arguments over the real worth of a major acquisition – although, it is a little hard to feel too sorry for investors who put such a huge valuation on the business of a law firm that made its name from acting for people who could not afford to pay lawyers.
It is worrying when accountants say they will ‘treat’ a transaction in a different way. This is especially so if you can only change the label you apply, or the box you put a transaction into, if the facts are different. There are problems in saying that cat is a dog, or that a transaction that we said occurred on 1 July, did in fact occur on 30 June. If you make a false statement for material gain, you are in the territory of the crime called theft. It is like American politicians saying that they ‘miss-spoke’: they are either lying now or they were lying before.
It is time that the law caught up with people who flirt with the truth and ruin others. In parts of this country, we throw blackfellas into jail for the equivalent of stealing loaf of bread because it is their third offence. We do not see people going to jail for allowing their greed to give us the Global Financial Crisis or by filling their own pockets while misleading shareholders. I am very far from saying that such a comment applies to any of the corporate examples that I have referred to above, but it would certainly apply to the officers of FIFA, and I have no doubt many shifty corporate operators here.
Speaking as a taxpayer, I would be happy to put quite a few such crooks up at my and the public’s expense for a number of Christmases. Such a course would be good for moral at large and help a lot of people to a happier Christmas.