As time goes by we see layer upon layer of laws restricting our rights while at the same time the courts, that last bastion of our freedom, peel away our constitutional protections until we are left with a naked justice system that will provide you only with as much justice as you can afford to purchase. The Supreme Court last year sided with former Enron CEO Jeffrey Skilling, leading to a possible invalidating of Skilling's 24-year prison sentence. Mark my words, Skilling will walk; he has a bank of high-powered attorneys working on his case round the clock. They've even argued that Skilling couldn't get a fair trial because a Houston newspaper once wrote a disparaging editorial about him. His case went from conviction to the Supreme Court in three years; now, Buddy, that's service!
In Louisiana, we see Judge Feldman, a Federalist Society judge who doesn't believe in legislating from the bench, overruled the President of the United States and the health and environmental concerns of the people. Judge Feldman's holdings in oil company stock give the perception of impropriety and that is enough. Seven of sixteen federal judges in Louisiana had recused themselves because of their relationship with the state's oil companies. It's a private club, judges that own oil companies and oil companies that own judges.
Harry Truman once said, "Whenever you put a man on the Supreme Court he ceases to be your friend." Dick Cheney never heard of that and neither did Anton Scalia. The truth is that a justice can still be your friend and you can still go hunting together but only after you leave office. On the foundation of a fair and unbiased judiciary rests the base of representative government. Without it, all else shifts and erodes, tilts and leans.
In 2001 Bradley Birkenfeld went to work for UBS Bank in Geneva, Switzerland, and Bradley Birkenfeld is no angel by any stretch of the imagination. He is everything that you would expect a corporate international banker to be. The son of a neurosurgeon, Birkenfeld earned a master's degree in business administration and worked for State Street Bank in Boston before joining UBS. Birkenfeld knew the way the game was played and was gladly playing along.
He was working for the rich and powerful; he managed one account for a billionaire worth $200 million. He carried with him at all times an encrypted laptop computer to prevent prying eyes having a look, he lied to customs officials about the reasons for his international travels. He would call his trips entertainment when he was actually delivering checks from Europe to the Virgin Islands, Panama and Hong Kong or setting up sham corporations and tax shelters. He once delivered profits back to a customer by putting diamonds in a toothpaste tube.
In 2005, Birkenfeld claimed that he learned that UBS policies had violated an agreement with the IRS. I find that story just a little hard to swallow, that a jet-setting international banker dealing with the super rich looks down at his dog one morning and says, "Oh garsh, Sandy, what have we gotten ourselves into?"
Birkenfeld resigned from UBS in October 2005 and provided written whistle blower complaints to the Head Counsel for UBS, and other UBS senior executives, regarding the illegal practices of U.S. international business. I'm feel certain that his complaint read something like this: "After four and a half years of smuggling diamonds, laundering money and setting up illegal overseas tax shelters, it has suddenly come to my attention that we might be violating the law here. My master's degree in business administration tells me something is amiss and just isn't quite right around here. So I'm quitting and not only do I quit, but I'm gonna tell on you, too! So just give me my bonus check and I'm out of here, never to return!"
Yes, Mister Birkenfeld and UBS finally reached an out of court settlement on his bonus check. UBS did their own private investigation into Birkenfeld's accusations and the company determined that there was no evidence of wrongdoing. "We don't know what that guy is talking about?"
Being true to his word Bradley Birkenfeld showed up on the front steps of the Justice Department, with a brown paper sack lunch under his arm, and told his dog Sandy, "Now you wait here for me Sandy while I go tell these nice people the truth." Sandy said, "Arf!" which is pretty much all that Sandy ever says.
Sandy waited and waited for almost two years as Mr. Birkenfeld told the government everything that he knew about everybody that he knew. And every time Bradley Birkenfeld would ask for immunity the government would answer, "Tell us more." Mr. Birkenfeld wanted immunity from prosecution, but he also wanted the whistle blower award of 15 to 30 percent of all the taxes collected, and with the people Bradley Birkenfeld was singing about, that was a lot of cheese. So much money in fact; that some people feared for his safety. In August 2007, Birkenfeld's attorney e-mailed prosecutors to say, UBS suspected Birkenfeld was talking to investigators, putting him "truly at risk" because the case was "threatening some very powerful people."
You see, this is America; and when you start stepping on the toes of billionaires and you might get kicked in the head. Billionaires own all sorts of things in America, like congressmen and senators. So as a prosecutor you have to move very carefully. This could be the biggest case of your career or it could be the last big case of your career.
The IRS wrote Birkenfeld's attorney on Sept. 6, 2007, to say that Birkenfeld had "terminated his proffer with the Tax Division in regards to alleged criminal conduct at UBS." They also stated that they declined to grant immunity and could continue the proffer if Birkenfeld chose to do so. Or Birkenfeld could continue to talk, but immunity was now off the table, and Sandy said, "Arf."