Imagina Resolves FIFA Investigation with U.S. Attorney’s Office
NEW YORK, July 10, 2018 – The Imagina Group announced today that it reached an agreement with the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York to resolve its investigation into improper payments made more than three years ago for media and marketing rights to certain World Cup soccer qualifying matches in the Central American and Caribbean regions. As part of the agreement, no charges are being brought against Spain-based Imagina Media Audiovisual SL, which received credit for its continuing and substantial cooperation with the government’s investigation.
This resolution, which comes after Imagina’s extensive cooperation with the U.S. Justice Department’s investigation of the matter, enables Imagina to move forward as a stronger company. Imagina is committed to the highest ethical standards and strict compliance with the laws of all jurisdictions in which it operates. Since learning of these issues more than two and a half years ago, Imagina has taken significant steps to address this isolated misconduct as well as to strengthen and improve compliance and oversight across its global operations.
The disposition resolves allegations against the company that have been a matter of public record since the DOJ unsealed a Superseding Indictment in December 2015 in its investigation relating to FIFA. At that time, the company learned that Roger Huguet and Fabio Tordin, former executives at the company’s U.S. affiliate, had pled guilty to their role in the scheme, and that a former senior executive of the company was alleged to have been involved. All three have been terminated and have not been involved in the management of Imagina Group or any of its subsidiaries since December 2015. An extensive internal investigation confirmed that responsibility for the misconduct in this matter was limited to the actions of these three individuals.
None of the activities of Imagina Group’s other global sports rights, production, or content business lines in more than 30 countries were implicated in the investigation, nor were the production or content units of its U.S. operations.
As part of the resolution, a U.S.-based affiliate of the company, US Imagina, LLC, which is not an active contracting entity, pled guilty to two counts of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. The company will pay a criminal fine of $12.883 million, and in addition $6.65 million will be returned to the affected soccer federations and $5.279 million in profits associated with the conduct will be forfeited.
The company will continue to implement compliance and ethics controls and procedures that it has voluntarily put into place over the past two-and-a-half years. Imagina appointed talented new leadership in the United States soon after it became aware of this problem and has implemented robust compliance and controls programs to ensure that improper conduct has no home at the company. As a result of the company’s cooperation with the government, along with its substantial efforts in implementing a remediation, compliance, and oversight program, a monitor is not among the conditions of the agreement.
The voluntary remedial actions Imagina has undertaken since December 2015 include:
- Conducting an exhaustive, independent internal investigation;
- Appointing a respected new management, legal, financial, and compliance team at Imagina US, as well as new compliance and foreign legal affairs personnel at the global level; and
- Implementing, in consultation with outside compliance consultants in Spain and the United States, rigorous and consistent new oversight and compliance procedures, including but not limited to:
- Instituting a new Code of Conduct and online whistleblowing platform;
- Establishing a Compliance Department, led by a Chief Compliance Officer;
- Establishing an Internal Audit Department overseen by an independent Audit Committee;
- Formalizing internal policies, particularly including written anti-bribery and anti-corruption policies;
- Creating and conducting a mandatory periodic compliance training program for all employees;
- Strengthening the approval process for sports rights contracts, including requiring executive committee approval; and
- In January 2016, following the appointment of new management at Imagina US, entering into newly negotiated contracts with new managers of the soccer federations involved in this matter in order to help ensure full compliance with the laws of the United States and all other relevant jurisdictions, and to address any concerns about possible impropriety around those contracts. Thus, the affected sports rights contracts have been fully ratified for more than two years.