Stephanie Gibaud, a former UBS employee who blew the whistle on the Swiss bank’s practices of hiding the wealth of French clients, is seeking a monetary award from the French government. A court adviser recently said that the French tax authorities erred in rejecting Gibaud’s request for a monetary compensation and should review the case, according to Bloomberg. Gibaud’s struggles to obtain monetary awards for her whistleblowing contrast with the experience of UBS whistleblower Bradley Birkenfeld who received $104 million from U.S. authorities.
Gibaud assisted French authorities during the 2011 French Open in obtaining evidence on how UBS illegally courted clients in France to hide their assets in the Swiss bank. Gibaud’s assistance helped lead to nearly 2 billion euros in penalties against UBS.
Gibaud, who was fired from UBS in 2021, went to court to request 3.5 million euros in return for her whistleblowing. However, in 2018, the Paris administrative court only awarded her 3,500 euros. The court “acknowledged her contribution and recognized the ‘stress’ she suffered for it,” according to Bloomberg.
Gibaud appealed the decision and in a recent decision a court adviser said that the tax authorities must reassess her request for compensation. “The adviser said her contribution helped recoup unpaid dues and also aided the parallel criminal investigation that culminated last year in penalties worth 1.8 billion euros for UBS,” Bloomberg reports.
“I was proactive. I always did what I could to help my country,” Gibaud told judges during a hearing last week at an administrative tribunal east of Paris. “This case robbed me of my entire life. I haven’t been able to work since my firing in 2012.”
In contrast, another UBS employee turned whistleblower received substantial compensation from U.S. tax authorities. Bradley Birkenfeld was a UBS banker who blew the whistle on UBS illegally assisting U.S. taxpayers in tax fraud. Birkenfeld’s disclosures led to a $780 million fine against UBS and helped the U.S. collect billions in back taxes from delinquent taxpayers. As a result of his whistleblowing, Birkenfeld was awarded a record $104 million from the U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS) in 2012.
The difference between Birkenfeld’s ability to receive compensation for blowing the whistle and Gibaud’s struggles can be traced back to the existence of the IRS Whistleblower Program in the U.S. and the lack of such an award program in France. Through the IRS Whistleblower Program, qualified whistleblowers are entitled to monetary awards of 15-30% of the funds recovered by the government.
Since the program was established in 2006, whistleblowers have contributed to the successful collection of $6.39 billion from non-compliant taxpayers. Correspondingly, the IRS has granted over $1 billion in whistleblower awards.
In recent years, however, the program has been plagued by issues and is in need of reform.