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UBS Banker Won $104Mn Whistleblower Award & Spent 2-1/2 Years in Prison - For Same Case

October 17, 2016

BloombergView's Matt Levine tells us that Bradley Birkenfeld has written a personal account of his experiences - as the whistle-blower in the UBS tax evasion case who managed to both be sentenced to 40 months in prison and get a $104 million whistleblower award from the government, for the same case. (Weird, right?) Here's how he got started on his life of whistleblowing:


I honestly didn’t think too much of it until April 2005, about four years after I began working at UBS. A colleague of mine brought me a document from the UBS intranet. It was three pages and contradicted everything we were doing, explicitly saying we shouldn’t solicit clients in other countries.


I couldn’t get it out of my head. It was a full-on cover-your-ass document that made us easy scapegoats for rogue banking. If we got caught soliciting a client or doing anything else illegal?—?even if UBS told us to?—?the bank could simply say, “We told you not to do it. There it is right in the company system.”


And then - in his telling - he went around to his bosses and colleagues asking them what to make of this document, and they told him "Don't make a big deal about it," and he eventually quit and went to the authorities. Judging by this and the Wells Fargo fake-accounts scandal, this method of keeping two sets of policy books, as it were, seems pretty popular in banking. You write down all the correct policies, put them on the intranet where regulators can find them, and tell yourself that you have a culture of compliance. Meanwhile the people in the field are indoctrinating new hires in a different, entirely wrong, but more profitable set of policies -- and those are never in writing.


[Click the Link for read the story of Bradley Birkenfeld.]