September 14th, 2012

A former employee of Swiss bank UBS AG went to jail after his involvement in a scheme to hide a wealthy client’s money from the Internal Revenue Service. Now, he is the recipient of one of the largest ever whistleblower awards after helping the United States government uncover a tax evasion scheme at the bank valued at around $5 billion.

The investigation of his former employer led to fines for the bank of about $780 million as well as an agreement for the bank to provide names of clients that utilized the tax evasion process. The man’s attorney told reporters that the large award sends a positive message to other potential whistleblowers at financial institutions and multinational corporations that the government will treat them well if the information is truly valuable in uncovering wrongdoing.

The IRS has previously been thought to be unfriendly and unreceptive to whistleblower complaints, but some experts say that this award signals a change in attitude for the tax agency.

Whistleblower protection laws prevent employers from retaliating against employees who expose misconduct or illegal activities and also often offer large rewards for employees who report misconduct to law enforcement officials. The awards are meant to work as an incentive to expose the illegal conduct, but also to provide financial security in the event the information will result in the shuttering of the company.

More information about whistleblower laws and how Minnesota employees might be able to seek protection under them is available on our whistleblower protection and retaliation page.

Source: Star Tribune, “Whistleblower imprisoned for tax fraud gets $104 million from IRS for helping expose cheating” Alan Fram, Sept. 11, 2012.

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