Swings and Roundabout
October 19, 2016 7:02 AM   Subscribe

 
Whistleblower protections need to be absolute or else they are pointless. Between this and Wells Fargo and everything else I wonder why we even keep up this charade that there are protections in place.
posted by triggerfinger at 7:28 AM on October 19, 2016 [5 favorites]


If this is even slightly legit, it's wholly damning. How can any of these people live with themselves?

(Also, is it just me or is the link totally not to Medium as advertised?)
posted by Dysk at 7:33 AM on October 19, 2016


Looks like Mel Magazine is copping Medium's look and feel, but is not associated with Medium.

This article was really interesting. I was prepared/primed to hate this guy, but it actually looks like he was a good guy who was fortunate enough to not be completely crushed for sticking to his convictions.
posted by explosion at 7:44 AM on October 19, 2016 [2 favorites]


It's not copping looking and feel; part of Medium's biz model is providing the infrastructure for branded publications. You can find (on desktop, anyway) the Medium "M" up in top left next to the MEL logo. Whether that makes this truly a single-link Medium post or not is a conversation too philosophically complicated for me to grapple with right now. Carry on.
posted by cortex at 7:51 AM on October 19, 2016 [5 favorites]


It's worth reading this article before jerking your knee about how this guy is a jerk. There are lots of jerks in this article but he isn't one of them.
posted by chavenet at 7:55 AM on October 19, 2016 [1 favorite]


I'd posit that he does come across as a bit of a jerk (as anyone saying 'I invested my hundred million dollars wisely, in NHL and F1 memorabilia and property' is going to) but he is orders of magnitude less of a jerk than anyone else in the story.
posted by Dysk at 8:01 AM on October 19, 2016 [2 favorites]


I interpreted the "investing wisely" crack as sarcasm and cynicism. As in, he doesn't exactly like banks anymore (can't blame him), so he needs another method for storing his cash, and there isn't enough room under his mattress.
posted by aperturescientist at 8:11 AM on October 19, 2016


If this is even slightly legit, it's wholly damning.

That's a pretty big if. I mean, this isn't journalism. This is just his own account of how he was prosecuted for being a hero, yeah? You'll pardon my skepticism.

It sounds to me like he was jailed for not cooperating with the investigation, which is not totally unreasonable. You can be a whistleblower and give names, or you can remain silent and and be prosecuted as a conspirator. He wanted to do a little of each, and I can see why the DOJ would want to play hardball to get names.

As for the DOJ not trying to prosecute his Swiss bosses who live in Switzerland, yeah I can understand why that might not happen. They can go after the bank, which has operations in the US, but maybe not the Swiss management personally.

I'm wary of taking any of this story at face value.
posted by ryanrs at 8:30 AM on October 19, 2016 [2 favorites]


I interpreted the "investing wisely" crack as sarcasm and cynicism.

Absolutely. But it still makes him come across as a selfish jerk using his millions to add to his pre-existing collections of outrageously expensive trivialities. Basically, a man of the world he's from - the world of banking for high net worth clients.
posted by Dysk at 8:51 AM on October 19, 2016


Yeah, but a man who's spent 2.5 more years in prison -- even if it was a Club Fed -- than any other high-net-worth person from the 2008 meltdown. Or, I predict, than any person making more than, say, $50k/year, from the Wells Fargo scandal.
posted by spacewrench at 9:38 AM on October 19, 2016 [4 favorites]


triggerfinger : Whistleblower protections need to be absolute or else they are pointless. Between this and Wells Fargo and everything else I wonder why we even keep up this charade that there are protections in place.

I'd say its working exactly as intended. Whistleblowing is usually a lose/lose proposition. It's assumed that the whistleblower is either in on the scam or is somehow complicit if they're in a position to know enough in the first place. No real protection is guaranteed as the government is going to want to use that as leverage to wring more out of the whistleblower if the information is not to their liking.
posted by dr_dank at 9:52 AM on October 19, 2016


This was the guy that smuggled diamonds across the border hidden in a toothpaste tube for his clients. He seemed to have neglected to mention that in his article.
posted by jpe at 10:10 AM on October 19, 2016 [4 favorites]


He did well to get his toothpaste through security, mine's just gone in the bin at Gatwick. Couldn't he have shoved them up his arse like a normal person?
posted by biffa at 10:22 AM on October 19, 2016 [4 favorites]


Holy shit, I cannot believe this article. I worked at UBS for 12 years and recognized Birkenfeld's name immediately. Like jpe said, he completely left out all the illegal shit he did, which is what he went to jail for - smuggling diamonds in a toothpaste tube for a client included. UBS was complicit, and deserved the fine it got, but this guy was not some innocent who just wasn't aware of what he was doing. He knew full well the laws he was breaking, as did the clients, and he had no intention of becoming a whistleblower until he was caught.
posted by widdershins at 1:36 PM on October 19, 2016 [3 favorites]


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