The federal government apparently doesn’t mind all whistleblowers—just ones like WikiLeaks, who blow the whistle on things they’d rather keep quiet.
For Bradley Birkenfeld, the former UBS banker convicted of fraud conspiracy for helping American UBS customers hide their money in Swiss bank accounts to keep it from getting taxed, the government has a different attitude: Though he went to jail in 2010, they just awarded him a $104 million reward prize for blowing the whistle that brought the whole scheme down.
“The comprehensive information provided by the whistleblower was exceptional in both its breadth and depth,” the IRS said. Acting as an informant, Birkenfeld provided information on almost $20 billion in US funds hidden in Switzerland, which pressured UBS into paying a $780 million fine and turning over the names of 4,500 Americans evading taxes.
Though Birkenfeld spent two and a half years in jail, LA Times reports “his sentence was reduced for good behavior and he was released last month.”
Getting out of jail to a $104 million reward bounty from the IRS. Must be nice. Now the question remains—is that reward money taxable? Birkenfeld’s lawyers said, “The IRS today sent 104 million messages to whistleblowers around the world — that there is now a safe and secure way to report tax fraud and that the IRS is now paying awards.”
They also sort of sent another message: That if you enable tax fraud at a level high enough to be considered conspiracy, and then blow the whistle on it, you might just be rewarded with a hundred million dollars. Not bad!