Bradley Birkenfeld: UBS whistleblower gets 104 million payout from IRS

UBS Whistleblower Gets $104M

UBS Whistleblower Gets $104M

The Slatest
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Sept. 11 2012 3:47 PM

IRS Awards $104M to UBS Whistleblower

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A logo of the Switzerland's largest bank UBS is seen with the Swiss House of Parliament in the backgroun in Bern

Photo by FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images

The Internal Revenue Service has given former UBS banker Bradley Birkenfeld a $104 million payout for providing insider information that helped the government figure out how the Swiss bank helped rich Americans evade taxes, reports the Washington Post. One of Birkenfeld’s lawyers said the award was the largest reward ever paid out to a single whistleblower.

Birkenfeld lifted the veil on unlawful practices that were apparently encouraged by UBS, which later paid $780 million to resolve a pending criminal case as it turned over information on more than 4,000 secret account holders, notes the Wall Street Journal. Birkenfeld couldn’t avoid jail himself though. He was sentenced to 40 months after he pleaded guilty to conspiracy. Since the revelation, at least 33,000 Americans have come forward and voluntarily disclosed offshore accounts to the IRS, generating more than $5 billion, reports Bloomberg.

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A criminal tax attorney tells the Wall Street Journal that the award is a “watershed event” for the IRS whistleblower program because it could encourage others to come forward. Sen. Chuck Grassley, who in 2006 wrote a bill that overhauled the program, has been highly critical of the IRS for not being more receptive to whistleblowers and said that the payout shows how it can be effective. Still, he criticized that the IRS took nearly four years to reach a settlement with Birkenfeld, reports Reuters.

Daniel Politi has been contributing to Slate since 2004 and wrote the Today’s Papers column from 2006 to 2009. Follow him on Twitter.