Sports are an obsession for many fans around the globe. Team owners, promoters and gear manufacturers know their customers are loyal (sometimes rabid), unpaid publicists. So we're talking about boatloads of cash coursing through sport systems — and sometimes surreptitiously into fraudsters' pockets.
Andrew Jennings, an independent investigative journalist, has spent more than 15 years laboriously examining the economic intricacies of FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association). His reporting of entrenched FIFA corruption — bribes, kickbacks, vote rigging and ticket scandals — eventually caught the attention of the FBI. In 2015, the U.S. Department of Justice indicted scores of FIFA-related officials under the U.S. Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act and the U.S. Travel Act. As of publication, the U.S. had convicted 21 on various racketeering and corruption charges with 42 defendants publicly charged.
Simon Jenkins of the Guardian newspaper wrote that credit for the routing of FIFA "should go to the dogged obsession of a single reporter, Andrew Jennings."
Jennings has been chasing bad guys around the globe for decades. He's investigated corruption in Scotland Yard, the Sicilian Mafia and the International Olympic Committee, among many others.
The inscription on the ACFE's Guardian Award reads: "For Vigilance in Fraud Reporting." That phrase defines Jennings's work. And that is why we're presenting him with the award at the 28th Annual ACFE Global Fraud Conference, June 18-23 in Nashville.
Jennings says that from his teen years, he wanted to become an investigative reporter. He attended university for a couple of years, but he was chomping at the bit to get to his investigations. He worked for some of the U.K. national newspapers, but he was bored. He went to the BBC where he worked on a TV documentary about corruption in Scotland Yard, but the BBC pulled it at the last moment. He quit and went home to write a book about it. And then a public-affairs TV show — "World in Action" — called him and he re-made the film.
From there he made several documentaries and wrote a couple of award-winning books on Olympic corruption, which prepared him for rooting out "the rot," as he calls it, in FIFA.
Even today, at 73, he's still sniffing for bad smells in large institutions.
Sign up for the 28th Annual ACFE Global Fraud Conference so you can come hear this fascinating man and many other fraud fighters.
James D. Ratley, CFE, President of the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners, can be reached at: jratley@ACFE.com.