The CBS news magazine 60 Minutes will feature a story about UBS whistleblower Bradley Birkenfeld this Sunday. In the story, Birkenfeld says he is the first Swiss banker ever to speak publicly about the famously secretive industry. He provided inside information that helped uncover thousands of untaxed Swiss accounts at his former employer, UBS. The accounts were owned by Americans and, so far, not one of their owners has gone to jail. But Birkenfeld is scheduled to enter a federal prison on January 8 for a 40-month term that he thinks he doesn't deserve. The interview will be broadcast Sunday, Jan. 3, at 7 p.m. ET/PT.Continue Reading...
Attorneys for UBS whistleblower Bradley Birkenfeld have written to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder asking that he reconsider the Justice Department's prior recommendation that Birkenfeld be sentenced to prison. The attorneys have asked specifically that the Justice Department investigate the veracity of statements made by the lead prosecutor in Birkenfeld's case. The letter and documents show that Birkenfeld was desperately seeking a "friendly subpoena" to protect him from prosecution by Swiss authorities. With a subpoena, he could reveal the names of particular clients who used UBS accounts to evade US taxes. The prosecutor claimed at Birkenfeld's sentencing hearing that he delayed disclosure of the names of his clients to further their tax evasion scheme.
Birkenfeld's new attorneys, Stephen M. Kohn and Dean Zerbe of Kohn, Kohn & Colapinto, LLP, point to specific emails in which Birkenfeld's prior attorneys begged staffers of a Senate committee to issue a subpoena so that Birkenfeld could provide more detailed disclosures about the tax evasions of specific clients. The Senate committee did then issue the subpoena, and Birkenfeld provided the names of UBS clients evading taxes before the Justice Department issued its indictment of Birkenfeld. Kohn and Zerbe have asked Attorney General Holder to review the prosecutor's claim of non-cooperation, find that it was untrue, and vacate both the recommendation of prison and the decision to indict Birkenfeld.
You can TAKE ACTION by sending your own letter to Attornery General Holder.
"Mr. Birkenfeld's case is unique in the history of tax law prosecutions," Kohn and Zerbe's letter states. Birkenfeld exposed a massive tax evasion scheme by the world's largest bank. He helped the U.S. recover over one billion dollars in tax revenue. His disclosures led to the identification of over 14,000 taxpayers who had used offshore accounts to hide their assets and avoid taxes. The letter concludes:
On its face it is troubling to imprison the only person responsible for exposing these massive and systemic frauds. However, the fact that the decision to indict Mr. Birkenfeld, and seek a long prison sentence for Mr. Birkenfeld, was predicated on false, misleading, inaccurate and incomplete information is simply intolerable.
The Wall Street Journal is reporting this letter to the Attorney General today. You can follow this link to the WSJ Law Blog entry about it.
I have received calls and emails asking why the NWC supports UBS whistleblower Brad Birkenfeld. This article published on Forbes.com helps answer that question. Mr. Birkenfeld, like countless other employees, blew the whistle because he believed it was the right thing to do. When Mr. Birkenfeld’s multiple efforts to correct the problem internally failed, he resigned. However, Mr. Birkenfeld did not stop there. He voluntarily approached the federal government to report the UBS tax fraud scheme. Some of the steps he took occurred before the IRS passed its whistleblower reward programs. Unfortunately, instead of protecting Mr. Birkenfeld, the Department of Justice (DOJ) chose to prosecute him. Mr. Birkenfeld will be starting a 40-month sentence on January 8, 2010. The precedent set by the DOJ treatment of Mr. Birkenfeld has sent a chilling message to future whistleblowers. Please take a minute to read “Whistleblowing: A Get-Rich-Quick Scheme?” and then TAKE ACTION by demanding that Attorney General Holder immediately and independently review Mr. Birkenfeld’s case.