Monday, November 30, 2009

Ex-UBS Banker Seeks Billions for Blowing Whistle

Last Friday Lynnley Browning of posted an article on Bradley C. Birkenfeld, and his chances of a billion dollar payout from the IRS. For those of you who might not be familiar, Birkenfeld was a private banker at the Swiss bank UBS. He divulged the tax evasion secrets of the bank and, as part of a Federal deal, admitted to helping hundreds of taxpayers.

Bradley C. Birkenfeld was sentenced to 40 months in prison for helping rich Americans dodge their taxes. Now, as thousands of wealthy Americans seek amnesty for keeping illicit, offshore bank accounts, Mr. Birkenfeld and his lawyers hope to use a new federal whistle-blower law to claim a multibillion-dollar reward from the American government. If they succeed — and legal experts say the odds are pretty good — it would be the largest reward of its kind.

Mr. Birkenfeld, who is to begin his prison term as soon as January, is being represented by the executive director of the National Whistleblowers Center, Stephen M. Kohn. Mr. Kohn successfully represented Linda Tripp, who helped expose the Monica Lewinsky scandal of the Clinton years. “We are seeking at least several billion dollars,” Mr. Kohn said.

It might seem outlandish that Mr. Birkenfeld, who pleaded guilty in June 2008 to conspiring to defraud the United States government, would seek any reward at all. But experts in whistle-blower cases — who, admittedly, have an interest in fostering such claims — say he has a persuasive case.

“I do think he has a serious claim,” said Erika A. Kelton, a partner at Phillips & Cohen, a law firm that specializes in large whistle-blower claims. “It was very credible, very useful information from inside UBS that he provided. The law is pretty clean on this.”

Blog Archive