National Whistleblower Center Releases Statement on the Prosecution of Credit Suisse

Washington, D.C. May 20, 2014. The National Whistleblower Center Executive Director, Stephen M. Kohn (who also served as one of the attorneys for UBS tax whistleblower Bradley Birkenfeld), issued the following statement regarding the U.S. government’s prosecution of Credit Suisse bank:

“On May 19, 2014 the Swiss bank Credit Suisse AG pleaded guilty to helping wealthy Americans avoid taxes and paid a $2.6 billion fine. While this was a significant step forward in policing illegal offshore accounts, the prosecution raises a number of troubling issues.”

“Swiss banking giant UBS was prosecuted in 2009. Despite the fact that UBS’s illegal offshore holdings were twice as large as Credit Suisse’s, UBS paid a fine of only $780 million, two thirds less then the Credit Suisse penalty. Why did UBS pay such a small penalty in relation to the magnitude of the crimes it committed?”

“The reason is simple. In the UBS case the Justice Department turned on its own whistleblower and sent Mr. Birkenfeld to prison. Instead of working with Mr. Birkenfeld to identify all of the bankers and clients involved in the crimes, the Justice Department agreed to a quick and dirty settlement with UBS. The Justice Department’s decision to attack the whistleblower, instead of using him as a resource for its investigation, cost the taxpayers billions of dollars. Based on the Credit Suisse-DOJ agreement, UBS should have paid back to the taxpayers twice as much as Credit Suisse.”

“We call for a full investigation into how the Justice Department conducted the UBS investigation and why the Justice Department engaged in a malicious prosecution of the whistleblower.”

“Mr. Birkenfeld’s disclosures concerning UBS set into motion the investigations and compliance efforts that are radically transforming all of Swiss banking. Mr. Birkenfeld, who worked at Credit Suisse before being employed at UBS, provided the name of the head of the U.S. desk of that bank, to the Justice Department in 2007. He is owed a debt of gratitude by the U.S. government for risking his career and freedom to serve the interests of the American people in ensuring that those responsible for illegal offshore banking practices are held fully accountable.”

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