The Neverending Bradley Birkenfeld / UBS Saga

If you’re interested in whistleblowers, you probably know about the saga of Bradley Birkenfeld. Birkenfeld turned over information to the IRS that led to a deal between UBS  and AG Eric Holder to relinquish the names of 4,500 potential tax cheats. UBS also paid a $780 million fine. For his services, Birkenfeld so far has been rewarded with a 40 month jail sentence, which, according to prosecutors, is appropriate because Birkenfeld withheld information regarding his role in the tax evasion schemes.

What seems particularly preposterous is the fact that of the few UBS clients convicted of tax evasion, few have received time behind bars, whereas Birkenfeld is serving more than three years. There may be a significant amount of reward money waiting for him when he gets out–possibly millions–but even that is uncertain. Hopefully the government will realize just how valuable the information Birkenfeld has provided really is. To put things in perspective, approximately 15,000 people presented themselves to the IRS last year, many paying back taxes and fines. The number of people who seek a soul-cleansing from the IRS’ revenual font in a normal year? About 100.

The most recent development in the Birkenfeld saga is his revelation that some politicians kept off-shore accounts with UBS. According to Birkenfeld, UBS had an office in Washington D.C. referred to internally as the PEP office for “Politically Exposed People.” One wonders: where is the outrage over this? Birkenfeld’s revelations have been largely overshadowed by the Goldman Sachs debacle, but we definitely haven’t heard the last from this high-octane UBS whistleblower.