Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The Easiest Way to Make Money

Former UBS banker Bradley Birkenfeld won $104m for exposing the giant Swiss bank’s efforts—illegal in America but not in its home country—to help American taxpayers hide money in offshore accounts. I think the take-away is that any organization involved in large-scale illegalities should realize that the incentive to turn over insider evidence is huge now, and this should dissuade law-breaking of this scale, which is a good thing. However, a huge organization will necessarily have many gray areas because bidding is strategic, and so could always be seen as conspiratorial by some, or have disparate impact. Thus, this probably massively increases the amount of bureaucracy that already weakens these companies.

 But it does create jobs. Here's The Economist on the whistle blower's lawyer:
His lawyer, Dean Zerbe—who wrote the relevant legislation on informants in 2006 while serving as tax counsel to the Senate Finance Committee, and with other lawyers will share in an estimated 10-33% of the reward—says he has two dozen other cases pending, two of them bigger than Mr Birkenfeld’s. His phone has rung incessantly since the settlement.
Writing complex legislation has its advantages.


Unknown said...

Too bad that creating jobs and creating wealth are not the same thing -- but that was your point.

Mercury said...

Yeah well, it's happening in the HFT world too as today's WSJ front page describes (the unemployed should thank their lucky stars that the process of public equity buyers and sellers seeking price discovery and liquidity in the marketplace has become much more complex, opaque and vulnerable to manipulation).

Although the SEC isn't nearly as sophisticated or clued-in about their area of jurisdiction as the IRS is about theirs.

BRM said...

This continues to prove the age-old adage that the lawyers, at least, always win. I absolutely love the poetic beauty of a lawyer cashing-in by litigating the law he wrote. Brilliant.