Braves Pay Dearly for Compliance Failures

By David D. Dodge

The New York Times, USA Today, and other news outlets recently reported the latest scandal in Major League Baseball (MLB), this one involving the Atlanta Braves in violation of the MLB rules. Ex-Braves general manager John Coppolella was banned for life for violating international signing rules and the Braves lost 13 chances to become independent players.

According to the Times, MLB also "penalized the Braves in the future, forbidding them to sign international players for more than $ 10,000 in 2020 and halve their bonus pool in 2021. They will not have full international bonus, allotment until 2022. "

These penalties are among the most severe ever imposed on a baseball executive and his team in the history of the game. A few months before the announcement of the penalties, Coppolella has touted it in a Interview at the new Braves Stadium: "… for us, we are the highest ranking system, and it's not even close." The short-term future of the franchise is now in tatters.

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred described a thorough investigation into the case that determined that the Braves "have bypassed the international signing rules from 2015 to 2017".

Earlier last year, the Compliance and Ethics blog reported another scandal in Major League Baseball, one involving a St. Louis Cardinals scout director, Chris Correa, who had pleaded guilty to the charges of hacking of the player. database of rival Cardinals, the Houston Astros. Correa was eventually sentenced to almost four years in prison with a court order to pay more than $ 250,000 in restitution.

Unlike the Cardinals case that was the result of an FBI investigation, the Braves scandal was investigated solely by MLB. In both cases, however, Correa des Cardinaux and Coppolella des Braves were banned for life by MLB. Jennry Mejia, a New York Mets pitcher in 2016 for a third violation of MLB's rules on performance-enhancing drugs, Pete Rose in 1989 for betting on MLB games as a player and coach, and in 1919 eight White Sox players to "kick off the World Series".

As reports of scandals in sports in the United States become more common, such as the sex abuse scandal at USA Gymnastics, and the recent college basketball scandal involving improper payments to rookie families, it becomes apparent that few of sports organizations compliance programs. In most of these cases and in so many cases, one can not help but conclude that much of the tragic wrongdoing would probably have been avoided if an effective compliance program was in place. .

At the time of writing these lines, no MLB team has an effective compliance program based on the US Commission's proven guidelines on sentencing for organizations. Too often, the state of mind in sports seems to be that most of the wrongdoing we see can not be avoided because they are simply the result of individual misbehavior. . In addition, very few sports leaders have first-hand experience or in-depth knowledge of compliance programs, so they are reluctant to adopt a foreign concept – they do not understand why they have to deal with all these expenses and difficulties.

Another obstacle to developing compliance programs in sport is that leaders protect their territory; they do not want a party or an outside organization telling them what to adopt and how to apply it.

Some organizations, like some people, learn things the hard way. Although there is no shortage of scandals in sports – indeed, looking for one is as difficult as looking for hay in a haystack – obviously, the fallout and sanctions of the scandals have not been painful enough for sports leaders.
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