Thursday, April 30, 2015

Birkenfeld CNBC Interview (4/30/15)

CNBC has this interview of Brad Birkenfeld.  Eamon Javers, Why did the US pay this former Swiss banker $104M? (CNBC 4/30/15), here.

Mr. Birkenfeld was the UBS banker who blew the whistle on UBS and thereafter the other Swiss banks plying the U.S. tax evasion market.  He received a $104 million whistleblower award and a prison sentence.  But what he really wants is some form of vindication in addition to $104 million.
But Birkenfeld, 50, a big man with a brash style and a temper, isn't done with the U.S. Department of Justice. He's on a quest, he said, to force the government to explain why it was so aggressive in prosecuting him, but let nearly everyone else involved in the scam get off with light penalties or none at all. 
Now Birkenfeld is telling his story exclusively to CNBC. Wealthy, out of prison and soon to be removed from federal probation, he says he's now free to explain how he came to be the man who ended the tradition of bank secrecy and got rich in the process.


  1. So now it is in the public domain that prosecutors at the Tax Division have had the names of many tax cheats (since 2008) who had unreported accounts at UBS but they never did anything about it. The whistleblower gave these names to them way back then. These are very wealthy, powerful and noteworthy people. Furthermore, none of these people were ever eligible for any of the IRS voluntary disclosure programs. So why are these prosecutors at TAX DOJ covering up for these people? The DOJ has no good answer to this question because there is no good answer. It wreaks of political corruption. The best case scenario for DOJ is admitting to unspeakable incompetence but nobody can really be that incompetent.

    It is also quite obvious that the DOJ does not want to do anything which might call for additional IRS whistleblower awards for this whistleblower. That would make him look better and, in turn, make the DOJ look incompetent (again having to rely on an outsider, the whistleblower). So they elect to bury this information instead of acting on it. In their zeal to undercut the whistleblower, they are actually undercutting the American people and the rule of law. Therefore, what distinguishes these prosecutors from anybody else who aids and abets tax fraud after the fact?

  2. The UK Inland Revenue tried to pull a similar stunt (if a stunt it was) regarding HSBC. It blew up in its corporate face and may be contributing to the dismal performance of David Cameron's performance in the UK General Election.

    I suspect we haven't heard the last of Mr Birkenfeld about this topic either--my hat is off to him! Always had a soft spot for him .


  4. ChiTownTaxAttorneyMay 4, 2015 at 1:24 PM

    Mr. Birkenfeld seems to have missed the two most important instructions and lessons to learn when a subject, target, defendant, convict or similarly situated person in a federal criminal case: (1) Shut the f!#$k up and (2) act humiliated and humbled. For attorneys who want to earn fees, he is a dream. For attorneys who care, he is a nightmare.

  5. Incorrect. He is no longer a defendant in any federal cases so there's no need to cower. The truth was buried by prosecutors and he refuses to let that grand deception stand. A little less cowardice and a little more courage is what's called for in such circumstances. He is not committing any crime by exposing (alleged) corruption by public officials. The full scope of this coverup has not yet been exposed.

  6. It is unclear to me exactly what corruption he is trying to expose. I posted earlier today his claims that UBS was corrupt, but this comment says that the prosecutors were corrupt, deceptive, etc. I have yet to hear exactly what his claims against the prosecutors are and, more importantly, what is his proof of any claims he makes.

    Jack Townsend

  7. I am a little unclear too about what corruption he is trying/intends to expose (and I mean that in the sense that I honestly haven't got a clue, while maintaining an open mind on what the prosecutors got up to in his and the larger UBS case). I must remark though that I thought it curious that Mr. Birkenfeld was prosecuted at all, much less jailed while none of the senior leadership was even touched, suggesting there might well be some interesting revelations. And if there was any willfull blindness on the part of prosecutors in relation to UBS, might the same be true in other cases such as CS and HSBC. For the record, many people knew of the Swiss bank shenanigans--they were on a very large scale; personally I and many others thought DOJ/IRS was well aware of the problem for many years.

  8. Anybody who attended the Offshore Alert conference in Miami this week got a first hand account of this DOJ corruption and Birkenfeld only appeared to scratch the surface. Birkenfeld was an invited panel speaker at this annual event. He only openly discussed, with visual exhibits, how the DOJ buried the information on the single largest American account holder at UBS.

    He told how he revealed this account holder to the DOJ, a person with UBS accounts worth more than $400 Million. It was June, 2007 (during the Bush Administration). The prosecutors were all very interested in this person until one critical moment which was a game changer. Near the end of his discussion of this person with the DOJ, Birkenfeld told them that they should know one more thing...that this guy, who resided in New York City at the time, was friends with Rudy Giuliani.

    That brought an immediate stern reaction from the lead prosecutor at the Bush DOJ, a guy named Kevin Downing, who is also from New York. The instant after hearing Giuliani's connection to this account holder, Downing stopped all conversation of the matter. He actually placed his hand up into Birkenfeld's face, trying to stop him from talking, and started talking over Birkenfeld, repeatedly telling him that he's not interested in this guy. Downing forced an end to this discussion and changed the subject.

    But, by this point, the prosecutors in that room already knew that this person was the biggest account holder on the UBS "American Desk". They even had his account numbers. The unmistakable backdrop was the presidential campaign at that time. When this meeting took place, Giuliani was the clear front runner for the Republican nomination for President of the United States. McCain was floundering then.

    It was clearly pure politics that prompted Downing to obstruct this part of the investigation and to bury it. The largest American account holder was protected by the Bush DOJ because it would have destroyed Giuliani's presidential campaign if they actually pursued this guy. This account holder has apparently never been charged with anything. The DOJ always issues press releases on all such indictments and convictions. There has been nothing about this account holder from the DOJ. They simply let him walk away.

    Fast forward to the Senate hearings on UBS in July, 2008. Two people from DOJ were there, his guy Kevin Downing and his superior, Kevin O'Connor, who also was from the NY/Connecticut area. O'Connor did all the talking for DOJ at the hearing. The day after Obama took office, O'Connor left DOJ and joined a law firm in New York City, as a partner, with Rudi Giulini's law firm.

    This "behavior" by the DOJ on this one account holder cost American tax payers over $200 Million in uncollected fines (the starting point of fines was about 50% of the high-water mark held in these Swiss accounts).

  9. Thanks, Source7.

    I did not attend the Offshore Alert conference. I have been asking through an intermediary for such proof for a long time and have not received it. I will renew my request,

    Thanks for bringing this to my attention.


  10. Well it seems that Birkenfd revealed the account holder at this conference? Who was it? Seems that putting this in the public domain is in everybody's interest.

    Btw, Kevin O' Connor just became GC of the infamous Stevie Cohen's insider trading outfit in Connecticut so the plot thickens!

  11. ChiTownTaxAttorneyMay 7, 2015 at 12:51 PM

    "Common sense is as rare as genius" - Ralph Waldo Emerson.


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