Here’s an innovative way to become a billionaire:
- Go work for a big multi-national bank
- Figure out the details of how the bank helps clients cheat the IRS
- Help the bank help clients cheat the IRS
- Tell the IRS
- Go to jail
- Collect billions in whistleblower fees
That’s what Bradley Birkenfeld of UBS wants to do.
So far, he has accomplished all but the last step. His lawyers are “seeking at least several billion dollars” in whistleblower fees, and the government has already admitted that Birkenfeld’s evidence was critical to the investigation of UBS. When Birkenfeld gets out of jail in 2013, therefore, he could be a billionaire.
It seems odd that whistleblower fees would apply to someone who pleaded guilty to the crime that he’s blowing the whistle on–even if he’s not being rewarded specifically for confessing his own activities. This seems more like being a cooperating witness. But thanks to the IRS’s new whistleblower law, some folks think Birkenfeld has a solid case.
Lynnley Browning, NYT: Bradley C. Birkenfeld was sentenced to 40 months in prison for helping rich Americans dodge their taxes. Now he is hoping for a bit more — a few billion dollars more.
Mr. Birkenfeld, a former private banker at the Swiss bank UBS, won the enmity of his peers by violating the omerta of Swiss banking: He divulged the tax evasion secrets of UBS, the world’s largest bank by assets, and its well-heeled American clients. As part of a deal with federal prosecutors, he admitted to, among other things, helping to smuggle diamonds in a tube of toothpaste.