Toronto lawyer appointed to FIFA corruption panel

Toronto lawyer James Klotz has been appointed to the FIFA Independent Governance Committee, set up by world soccer’s governing body in response to a series of scandals and allegations of corruption.

The Miller Thomson LLP partner, a well-known anti-corruption lawyer, is still sketchy on the details of the appointment, since the group won’t have its first meeting until next week, but he’s says he’s excited to get started.

“It’s huge. For me, it’s an interesting and complex assignment, and I’m looking forward to it,” Klotz tells Legal Feeds. “I’m assuming they’re serious about it [tackling corruption]. They are putting resources towards it, and they’ve attracted some serious people to the panel.”

Klotz will be joined on the committee by Lord Peter Goldsmith, who served as the U.K.’s attorney general under Tony Blair between 2001 and 2007, and Alexandra Wrage, the president of anti-bribery organization TRACE International. Heading up the panel is Mark Pieth, a criminal law professr who was part of the UN’s independent inquiry into the Iraq Oil-for-Food Programme and has advised the World Bank on integrity issues.

Pieth has written a report calling for change at FIFA, highlighting the organization’s lack of a clear code of conduct or conflict of interest regulations.

Calls for reform at FIFA reached fever pitch last year when association president Sepp Blatter was re-elected unopposed. His only opponent pulled out of the race after he was suspended over allegations he offered financial incentives to voters. Former vice president Jack Warner also resigned in June last year while under investigation by FIFA’s ethics committee, and two more FIFA executive committee members were accused of offering to sell their votes ahead of the competition to award the 2018 and 2022 World Cup staging rights.

Klotz has been involved in anti-corruption law for almost two decades, leading calls for the criminalization of the bribery of foreign officials. He is president of Transparency International Canada, but will not be representing the group in his work on the FIFA panel, since TI decided to decline an appointment. TI withdrew after expressing concerns over the independence of the panel and its refusal to look into past allegations of corruption.

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