Imprisoning a Courageous Whistleblower

… The Case of Bradley Birkenfeld (see also video on Democracy Now, 59.09 min, January 7, 2010). – Linked with Government Accountability Project GAP – whistleblower.org, and with Stephen Lendman – USA.

Published on Dissident Voice, by Stephen Lendman, April 22, 2010.

… Key Facts: Whistleblower.org’s Bradley Birkenfeld Fact Sheet covers the following:

(1) Did he serve the public interest?

After his disclosures, UBS paid $780 million in fines and penalties, and agreed to an IRS amnesty program under which 14,700 clients admitted to illegal, secret accounts. As a result, billions of dollars were recovered and the entire program was shut. According to the New York Daily News, “Bradley Birkenfeld deserves a statue on Wall Street, not a prison sentence.” 

(2) What did Birkenfeld do?

From June 2005, he compiled internal email and correspondence documentation, discovered fraud, told his superiors in good faith, followed bank compliance procedures, and reported his findings up the chain of command. On May 24, 2006, UBS’ general counsel closed the investigation without action. As a result, Birkenfeld resigned. UBS insisted he keep his information secret. He retained counsel and, in 2007, informed the DOJ, IRS, SEC, and Senate. Prior to its indictment, DOJ stonewalled him.

(3) The Importance of His Disclosures

Under Section 15 to Exhibit C of Deferred Prosecution Agreement, bank officials could have resolved the matter on their own. Failing to do so shows the importance of his actions. The IRS, SEC and Senate wrote letters affirming it.

(4) Does His Participation in Illegal Activity Disqualify Him?

No, as whistleblower protection laws apply to everyone making disclosures, even those guilty of wrongdoing. An old Civil War law was based on the idea that “setting a rogue to catch a rogue is the safest and most expeditious way I have discovered of bringing rogues to justice,” according to the law’s leading sponsor, Senator Jacob M. Howard.

Since then, thousands of whistleblowers have come forward, many of whom participated in fraud. As far as known, none were prosecuted. DOJ’s action is unprecedented. It also undermines anti-fraud laws and makes it less likely others will come forward like Birkenfeld. Along with the National Whistleblowers Center, 20 anti-corruption groups back a clemency campaign to free him, including a presidential pardon or commutation for time served.

(5) Was DOJ Truthful in Arguing for a Prison Term?

When sentenced, DOJ’s prosecutor, Kevin Downing, said if Birkenfeld had turned in his former client, Igor Olenicoff, he wouldn’t have been criminally indicted. In fact, prior to being indicted, he made full disclosure to the Senate Subcommittee on Investigations, the IRS and SEC, including about Olenicoff.

(6) Why DOJ’s Treatment Is Unjust

UBS officials got off scot-free. Guilty bank clients got slaps on the wrist. Birkenfeld is the only one sentenced to hard time in prison, a shocking and unprecedented act.

… (full long text).

Comments are closed.