FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Lucifer’s Banker: Bradley Birkenfeld on Corporate Crime in America

Bradley Birkenfeld held a book launch party at the National Press Club tonight.

And it is telling that he invited some of the nation’s top whistleblowers — including John Kiriakou who spent two years in prison — to be his guests.

One of the ironies that was not lost on anyone in the room is that increasingly, it’s not corporate executives but whistleblowers who are doing jail time.

Birkenfeld himself blew the whistle on his employer, the giant Swiss bank UBS, where the rich and famous stashed their millions in numbered accounts to evade U.S. tax authorities.

Guess who went to jail?

Birkenfeld.

A copy of Birkenfeld’s book — Lucifer’s Banker: The Untold Story of How I Destroyed Swiss Bank Secrecy — was given to each guest at the book launch.

And tucked inside was a book mark — a laminated copy of the check that Birkenfeld got from the U.S. government for helping recover over $15 billion from American tax cheats.

The government paid Birkenfeld $104 million as a bounty, but the check is made out to Birkenfeld in the amount of $75 million. (Why minus $29 million? Taxes.)

This is perhaps one of the best corporate crime books ever written.

And the reason is that it clearly exposes our system of no fault corporate crime.lucifersbanker

Deferred prosecutions. Non prosecutions. Neither admit nor deny consent decrees. Executives rarely sent to jail.

Just have the corporation write a check. Thank you.

Birkenfeld exposes the perverse outcomes of that system at almost every turn.

It’s not just that whistleblowers are doing prison time and corporate executives are not.

It’s that when corporate executives are sent to jail —

Well, take the case of Joe Nacchio.

While doing his 30 months in prison at Schuylkill Federal Correctional Institution in Minersville, Pennsylvania, Birkenfeld ran into Nacchio.

“Joe Nacchio had been the President and CEO of Qwest, a huge telephone company,” Birkenfeld writes. “He was close to the Bush people, even visiting the White House on occasion. Shortly after 9/11, the Bush administration had gone to all the phone companies and demanded their customer records and email. AT&T and Verizon had caved right away, but Joe told the Feds to fuck off.”

“We’re a private company,” Naccio said. “I can’t do that”

“Yes, you can,” said the Bushies. “Matter of national security.”

“It’s unconstitutional,” Joe protested. “Without warrants from a judge, on a case-by-case basis, I won’t do it.”

“Oh, really?”

“So the Bushies charged him with insider trading and put him away for seven years. Joe’s replacement at Qwest got the message, and the Feds got the records.”

I’m in Washington and I like this book because it exposes the system of no fault corporate crime enforcement.

But a lot of people in Washington are not going to like this book.

Birkenfeld asks some pointed questions — including — why was the Department of Justice so reckless as to allow UBS to disclose the identities of only 4,700 (including some relatively low income dentists) of the 19,000 illegal account holders?

Those protected probably included many names you would recognize.

Why were these names never made public?

That’s why Hillary Clinton is not going to like this book.

Birkenfeld recounts the deal Clinton cut with the Swiss that Birkenfeld says kept the big names secret.

Prior to Clinton’s deal with the Swiss, UBS had only seen fit to contribute $60,000 to the Clinton Foundation, “an amount that wouldn’t even cover the bank’s annual parking tickets,” Birkenfeld writes.

“Afterward the Clinton Foundation’s cash registers rang up $600,000 in UBS gifts,” he writes. “The bank also decided to partner with the Foundation on some inner-city development programs, issuing a $32 million loan at very reasonable rates. Oh, and suddenly UBS also thought that Bill Clinton would make a very fine paid speaker about global affairs, so they paid him $1.52 million for a series of fireside chats with the bank’s Wealth Management Chief Executive, Bob McCann. It was Bill Clinton’s biggest payday since leaving the office of the Presidency.”

Most of the lawyers who Birkenfeld ran into are not going to like this book because they are caught up in the corporate crime industrial complex that defines inside the beltway lawyers.

For example, when Birkenfeld approach Skadden Arps partner Bob Bennett to take his case against UBS, Bennett begged off.

“Don’t tell me Bob, they’re your client,” Birkenfeld asked.

“They’re everyone’s client,” Bennett tells Birkenfeld. “That’s what all the major financial firms do, especially if they have big interests and lobbyists here in Wonderland. They put everyone on retainer. It’s like buying lawsuit insurance.”

But most importantly, the Justice Department is not going to like this book because Birkenfeld says it’s not about the facts, the law and justice.

It’s about brute corporate power.

Why did the Department of Justice fail to fine UBS adequately — settling for only $780 million in 2009 — not even commensurate with the billions of dollars illegally earned in profits by UBS over many decades?

Why did the Department of Justice release from custody two of the most senior UBS executives who oversaw this massive fraud?

Birkenfeld says it’s about corporate connections.

Which he lays out in intimate detail.

At the book launch party, Birkenfeld said he had sent a copy of the book to the President Obama at the White House.

“The American taxpayers need to know why the Department of Justice took such extraordinary actions to protect the perpetrators of the largest tax fraud in history.”

“Why the keen interest to shield from the American public all of those getting a free ride off the backs of tax-paying, law-abiding citizens? I ask you Mr. President, what will you do to investigate these serious injustices?”

That question Birkenfeld asked sort of tongue in cheek.

After all, Birkenfeld knows about Obama’s UBS connection.

In August 2009, on the first Sunday after Birkenfeld was sentenced in prison, at the Farm Neck Golf Club in Martha’s Vineyard, President Barack Obama had strolled out onto the links.

“His golfing partner that day was Robert Wolf, Chairman of UBS Americas,” Birkenfeld writes. “I’m sure it was a fine day of patter and play, guarded by a throng of Secret Service agents, and I wondered if Obama and Wolf had high-fived over my downfall, or maybe sent a ‘good job’ text to (the sentencing judge.) But I’d never know, because much like Swiss bankers, Secret Service agents don’t talk.”

More articles by:

Russell Mokhiber is the editor of the Corporate Crime Reporter..

July 18, 2018
Bruce E. Levine
Politics and Psychiatry: the Cost of the Trauma Cover-Up
Frank Stricker
The Crummy Good Economy and the New Serfdom
Linda Ford
Red Fawn Fallis and the Felony of Being Attacked by Cops
David Mattson
Entrusting Grizzlies to a Basket of Deplorables?
Stephen F. Eisenman
Want Gun Control? Arm the Left (It Worked Before)
CJ Hopkins
Trump’s Treasonous Traitor Summit or: How Liberals Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the New McCarthyism
Patrick Bond
State of the BRICS class struggle: Repression, Austerity and Worker Militancy
Dan Corjescu
The USA and Russia: Two Sides of the Same Criminal Corporate Coin
The Hudson Report
How Argentina Got the Biggest Loan in the History of the IMF
Kenn Orphan
You Call This Treason?
Max Parry
Ukraine’s Anti-Roma Pogroms Ignored as Russia is Blamed for Global Far Right Resurgence
Ed Meek
Acts of Resistance
July 17, 2018
Conn Hallinan
Trump & The Big Bad Bugs
Robert Hunziker
Trump Kills Science, Nature Strikes Back
John Grant
The Politics of Cruelty
Kenneth Surin
Calculated Buffoonery: Trump in the UK
Binoy Kampmark
Helsinki Theatrics: Trump Meets Putin
Patrick Bond
BRICS From Above, Seen Critically From Below
Jim Kavanagh
Fighting Fake Stories: The New Yorker, Israel and Obama
Daniel Falcone
Chomsky on the Trump NATO Ruse
W. T. Whitney
Oil Underground in Neuquén, Argentina – and a New US Military Base There
Doug Rawlings
Ken Burns’ “The Vietnam War” was Nominated for an Emmy, Does It Deserve It?
Rajan Menon
The United States of Inequality
Thomas Knapp
Have Mueller and Rosenstein Finally Gone Too Far?
Cesar Chelala
An Insatiable Salesman
Dean Baker
Truth, Trump and the Washington Post
Mel Gurtov
Human Rights Trumped
Binoy Kampmark
Putin’s Football Gambit: How the World Cup Paid Off
July 16, 2018
Sheldon Richman
Trump Turns to Gaza as Middle East Deal of the Century Collapses
Charles Pierson
Kirstjen Nielsen Just Wants to Protect You
Brett Wilkins
The Lydda Death March and the Israeli State of Denial
Patrick Cockburn
Trump Knows That the US Can Exercise More Power in a UK Weakened by Brexit
Robert Fisk
The Fisherman of Sarajevo Told Tales Past Wars and Wars to Come
Gary Leupp
When Did Russia Become an Adversary?
Uri Avnery
“Not Enough!”
Dave Lindorff
Undermining Trump-Putin Summit Means Promoting War
Manuel E. Yepe
World Trade War Has Begun
Binoy Kampmark
Trump Stomps Britain
Wim Laven
The Best Deals are the Deals that Develop Peace
Kary Love
Can We Learn from Heinrich Himmler’s Daughter? Should We?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Franklin Lamb, Requiescat in Pace
Weekend Edition
July 13, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Brian Cloughley
Lessons That Should Have Been Learned From NATO’s Destruction of Libya
Paul Street
Time to Stop Playing “Simon Says” with James Madison and Alexander Hamilton
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: In the Land of Formula and Honey
Aidan O'Brien
Ireland’s Intellectuals Bow to the Queen of Chaos 
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail