In a recent ruling by Judge Pamela K. Chen, convictions against a former Fox employee and an Argentine sports marketing company were overturned. The defendants were accused of participating in a bribery scheme to secure lucrative soccer broadcasting contracts. The judge concluded that the federal wire fraud statute did not apply to their actions.
The defendants, Hernán López and the sports marketing company Full Play Group, were implicated in a scheme to pay bribes to presidents of national soccer federations in order to obtain broadcasting rights for South American soccer tournaments. Mr. López was also accused of leveraging bribes to help Fox win the U.S. broadcasting rights for the 2018 and 2022 men’s World Cups. The convictions included charges of money laundering conspiracy and wire fraud conspiracy.
3. New Findings
Judge Chen made her decision based on a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court in May, which overturned fraud convictions related to public corruption prosecutions. The ruling questioned the application of the honest services wire fraud statute in cases involving conduct by former government employees. Judge Chen concluded that the statute did not encompass foreign commercial bribery, as charged against the defendants.
The acquittals of Mr. López and Full Play could have ramifications for other defendants in the broader corruption investigation into international soccer officials. Convicted officials could seek acquittals, and individuals who have evaded extradition may see charges against them dropped. The U.S. attorney’s office for the Eastern District of New York is currently reviewing the decision.