In December, Whistleblower Network News posted an opinion piece titled “Bradley Birkenfeld Deserves a Presidential Pardon.” The piece argues that Birkenfeld, the IRS whistleblower credited with ending the illegal Swiss banking system, deserves a presidential pardon based on the bravery of his whistleblowing and the great service he did the American people. According to new reports, Birkenfeld was offered the chance to receive a pardon in the final months of the Trump administration. However, the pardon was not based on merit – instead, assistance in obtaining the pardon was allegedly offered in exchange for over a million dollars.
According to The Atlantic, Jason Osborne, a business colleague of Donald Trump’s close ally Corey Lewandowski, told Birkenfeld that he and Lewandowksi would work to secure Birkenfeld a pardon from then-President Trump in exchange for a hefty fee. Osborne reportedly requested $300,000 up front and another $1,000,000 if the pardon was obtained. Birkenfeld claims Osborne made the offer following a chance encounter in November 2020 in the lobby of the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C. Birkenfeld further asserts that Lewandowksi made a subsequent offer during a phone call with an associate of Birkenfeld in which Lewandowksi upped the initial fee to $500,000 and claimed he was meeting with then-President Trump the next day to discuss pardons.
Birkenfeld told The Atlantic “he rejected both offers as ‘shakedowns.’” Birkenfeld did aggressively pursue a presidential pardon from Trump through other avenues and with the pro-bono assistance of a team of Washington insiders and influential conservatives. However, Birkenfeld was not among the approximately 240 pardons and commutations ordered by Trump. These pardons have come under the scrutiny of several media outlets, such as The New York Times and The Washington Post, which claim that a vast majority of the pardons “were a product of connections, influence and money.”
Birkenfeld is a former banker and wealth manager at UBS bank in Switzerland where he assisted wealthy Americans in hiding their assets in Swiss bank accounts. In 2007, Birkenfeld voluntarily approached U.S. authorities with information on the illegal tax shelters run by UBS. His whistleblower disclosures led directly to a $780 million settlement in which UBS and the Swiss government also agreed to turn over the names of thousands of Americans suspected of tax evasion. Overall, Birkenfeld’s disclosures led to the recovery of over $25 billion from U.S. taxpayers illegally utiling undeclared offshore accounts.
Through the IRS Whistleblower Program, Birkenfeld received a $104 million whistleblower award – at the time the largest whistleblower award ever issued to an individual by the U.S. government. However, because Birkenfeld initially made his disclosure to Justice Department prosecutors who did not consider him a “whistleblower,” he was arrested and convicted on a single count of conspiracy for his role in assisting a billionaire client in tax evasion. Birkenfeld served two and half years in prison. It is for this felony conviction that Birkenfeld has sought a pardon.