Julius Baer in talks with DOJ to settle 2015 FIFA money laundering case

September 16, 2020.

Private Swiss bank said it is in “advanced discussions” with the U.S. Department of Justice to resolve a money laundering and corruption probe regarding the world soccer governing body FIFA.

The Zurich-based banking institution disclosed Wednesday that it has been cooperating with U.S. prosecutors in their investigation of corruption involving FIFA and associated companies. As part of a potential settlement, the bank may pay a double-digit million U.S. dollar amount, Julius Baer said.

“Subsequent to the closure of an enforcement procedure by the Swiss Financial Markets Authority FINMA against Julius Baer in February 2020, related to the corruption events around the world soccer federation FIFA, the Group continues to pursue the resolution of remaining legacy regulatory and legal matters in cooperation with the relevant authorities,” Julius Baer said.

FINMA said in February that Julius Baer “fell significantly short in combating money laundering” between 2009 and 2018. The markets watchdog banned the bank from making large acquisitions until it properly complied with a new set of sanctions. 

Philipp Rickenbacher was named the new CEO of Julius Baer last year, and has worked to distance the bank from the FIFA scandal and other regulatory investigations, putting a new focus on Julius Baer’s most profitable clients.

Following a DOJ corruption investigation in 2015, former FIFA president Sepp Blatter resigned. In 2017, Julius Baer employee Jorge Luis Arzuaga pleaded guilty in federal court in New York to participating in a money laundering conspiracy in connection with the distribution and receipt of millions of dollars of bribes paid to FIFA officials.

Wednesday’s update on the FIFA scandal came alongside Julius Baer revealing that it is planning to propose the restart of dividend payments in late 2020. It may decide to distribute the second part of a split 2019 dividend at a shareholder meeting in November.

After COVID-19-related factors caused the 2019 dividend to split, the distribution of the first half was approved in May 2020 by Julius Baer’s board of directors. Now the bank will move forward on the second half at a meeting on Nov. 2.