Lucifer's Banker: The Untold Story of How I Destroyed Swiss Bank Secrecy

Lucifer's Banker: The Untold Story of How I Destroyed Swiss Bank Secrecy

by Bradley C. Birkenfeld

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Overview

Lucifer's Banker: The Untold Story of How I Destroyed Swiss Bank Secrecy by Bradley C. Birkenfeld


As a private banker working for the largest bank in the world, UBS, Bradley Birkenfeld was an expert in Switzerland’s shell-game of offshore companies and secret numbered accounts. He wined and dined ultrawealthy clients whose millions of dollars were hidden away from business partners, spouses, and tax authorities.  As his client list grew, Birkenfeld lived a life of money, fast cars, and beautiful women, but when he discovered that UBS was planning to betray him, he blew the whistle to the US Government. 

​The Department of Justice scorned Birkenfeld’s unprecedented whistle-blowing and attempted to silence him with a conspiracy charge. Yet Birkenfeld would not be intimidated. He took his secrets to the US Senate, the Securities and Exchange Commission, and the Internal Revenue Service, where he prevailed.

His bombshell revelations helped the US Treasury recover over $15 billion (and counting) in back taxes, fines, and penalties from American tax cheats. But Birkenfeld was shocked to discover that at the same time he was cooperating with the US Government, the Department of Justice was still doggedly pursuing him. He was arrested and served thirty months in federal prison.  When he emerged, the Internal Revenue Service gave him a whistle-blower award for $104 million, the largest such reward in history.

A page-turning real-life thriller, Lucifer’s Banker is a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at the secret Swiss high-net worth banking industry and a harrowing account of our government’s justice system. Readers will follow Birkenfeld and share his outrage with the incompetence and possible corruption at the Department of Justice, and they will cheer him on as he “hammers” one of the most well-known and powerful banks in the world. 

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781626343719
Publisher: Greenleaf Book Group Press
Publication date: 11/01/2016
Pages: 344
Sales rank: 298,035
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.40(d)

About the Author

Bradley C. Birkenfeld is a retired financial industry professional renowned as the most significant whistle-blower in history. He is dedicated to supporting whistle-blower initiatives exposing and eliminating fraud. As a result of Brad’s historic actions, the risks and costs to financial institutions that support clients’ tax evasion, fraud, corruption, and terrorist activities have increased dramatically.

Birkenfeld holds a BS in Economics from Norwich University in Vermont and an International MBA from the American Graduate School of Business in Switzerland.

A lifelong fan of the Boston Bruins, Brad works with the team to help disadvantaged children, along with other philanthropic endeavors.

Read an Excerpt

Lucifer's Banker

The Untold Story of How I Destroyed Swiss Bank Secrecy


By Bradley C. Birkenfeld

Greenleaf Book Group Press

Copyright © 2016 Bradley C. Birkenfeld
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-62634-371-9



CHAPTER 1

MAKING THE CUT


"Greed, for lack of a better word, is good."

— GORDON GEKKO, WALL STREET


YOU DON'T REALLY WANT to know about my childhood. But I'm going to tell you anyway, so just hang in for a few pages while I wax poetic.

I grew up in a castle.

That probably got your attention, but it wasn't a real fortress of knights and damsels; it was just what everyone in our small town of Hingham, Massachusetts, called it — "The Castle" (Exhibit 1). The house was a sprawling six-bedroom edifice of stone with gables, turrets, and lead-paned glass windows, built in the early twentieth century by a wealthy industrial baron. It was perched on five acres of manicured lawns, surrounded by additional acres of undeveloped conservation land with a three hundred-foot driveway almost abutting the quaint Hingham harbor. If you drove by it today, you'd think, "rich folk, spoiled kids," but in truth it became "Schloss Birkenfeld" in the late 1960s for less than the current price of a Jeep Wrangler. And the reason I remember the acreage so well is that my brothers and I mowed the lawn, every week, every spring, summer, and fall.

As I mentioned previously, my dad was a well-respected neurosurgeon in Boston, a man who believed in studying hard, working harder, and only enjoying your downtime if you deserved it. He'd gone to a Quaker boarding school in Pennsylvania as a child (which seemed a bit odd to me, since he hailed from Russian Jews), and that's where he acquired a "You're not going to learn much if your gums are flapping" viewpoint on education. My mom was a beautiful former fashion model and a registered nurse, raised as a Protestant, but she'd given up all that haute couture stuff to be a stay-at-home mother, which wasn't a disgrace back in the day, though some folks think so today.

The other figure in my young life was my mom's brother, Major General E. Donald Walsh, a man I respected and loved very much. We didn't see Uncle Don that often, because he was the Adjutant General of Connecticut, but his influence was powerful. The man was a legend, a highly decorated combat veteran of the Battles of Iwo Jima and Okinawa, and I suppose it was from him that I acquired a thirst for adrenaline and adventure.

So, when you've got a full-time mother with manners and class, a brilliant neurosurgeon father with an ironclad work ethic, and an Iwo Jima/Okinawa war hero uncle, you wind up with some interesting kids.

My older brothers, Dave and Doug, were good boys, with heads on their shoulders and senses of purpose. I was the one with a glint in my eye, which was good for me because the third child often gets more of a pass (Exhibit 2). But none of us were slackers. We had to mow that golf-course-sized lawn and shovel that runway-length driveway. In the summers we worked odd jobs, such as mowing other people's lawns and hauling furniture with the Teamsters union. Dad expected us to bring home good grades and encouraged us to play hockey and football to develop competitive spirits, which certainly worked in my case. We knew how to tie a tie, say "Ma'am" and "Sir" at Mom's cocktail parties, and get into trouble discreetly so Dad wouldn't find out. If he did, there'd be hell to pay.

When high school came, I begged my dad to let me go to a private academy. It wasn't a Harry Potter thing (those books hadn't been written back then), just something I thought would be cool. Dad's medical expertise was in high demand, so I knew the tuition wouldn't pinch his wallet. He sighed and complied, and I went off to Thayer Academy to don jackets and ties and snicker through chapel masses on Mondays. I got decent grades, knocked heads in hockey and football games, caroused with the girls on the weekends, and drank plenty of beer with my close cadre of friends.

By now you're getting the picture that I always had an itch for adventure and independence, despite the careful sculpting of my erstwhile elders. Nothing was ever enough for me. By eighteen, I was an avid marksman and had purchased my own Colt .45-caliber pistol, just like the one on Uncle Don's garrison belt. I was parachuting out of airplanes in New York and dragging my groaning buddies off to three-day treks in the Vermont mountains, where we'd camp, fish, hunt, and plot which girls we were going to bag next. Normal, lusty, Tom Sawyer–Huck Finn–type stuff.

However, I'd also gotten serious about my future. My oldest brother, Dave, was pursuing medicine, and Doug was going to be a lawyer. What about me? Well, I decided to explore a military career, and not just being some grunt with a rifle. I was going to be a fighter pilot and circle the globe as a "zipper-suited sun god." So, I filled out applications to military academies and landed a great one.

Norwich University in Northfield, Vermont, is the oldest private military academy in the nation. As you'd expect, it's nestled in a lush valley surrounded by mountains, and the buildings are solid brick and granite with a beautiful white chapel as a centerpiece and plenty of thick woods and rivers in which to play soldier. All branches of the service are represented at Norwich, so I came aboard as an Air Force ROTC candidate. But for the first full year, I was nothing but a "Rook," which basically means you're on probation until your advisor (a real military officer) decides you're worthy of the title "Cadet."

"Rook! That sun's been up for a full minute. Why the hell aren't you?!"

"Rook! Those boots should be shined like a mirror. If I can't use 'em to shave, then you can't use 'em to fight!"

"Rook! What the hell are you lookin' at? Get your ruck and your rifle and be back here in thirty seconds! We're going for a walk."

Needless to say, those "walks" were often in knee-deep snow, and nobody told us how long they would be, but they were rarely less than ten miles. We learned how to wear our uniforms, both combat fatigues and snappy dress grays, and how to shoot, move, navigate in the field, keep our living quarters spotless, and be ready to spit back regulations like robots on speed. The push-ups, sit-ups, and runs were endless, but that didn't faze me much. As a former high school athlete, I could do PT till the cows came home, which they never did.

The classes were challenging; there were some military subjects, but mostly the standards of math, English, history, and languages. All you had to do was to study hard, but that came with a caveat, a catch22. You couldn't hit the books until all your soldierly duties were squared away, but you couldn't focus on your buckles and rifles if you weren't making the grades. So every day bled off past midnight, and then you were up again five hours later, no bitching allowed. "Hit the parade ground! Hit the books!"

Well, by the end of that first year, I had made Cadet, and then the real work began. I chose economics as my major, but as we swung into sophomore classes, guess what? I was already bored. The classes were interesting enough and I enjoyed learning about finance, statistics, the stock market, and so forth; but it was all just theory unless it was fun, and fun to me always means risk.

"Hey, Beeker," I said to my roommate Dave Burke one night while we were cramming for an exam in our quarters. "Let's start a business."

"What do you mean, a business?"

I sat up on my bed. We had a nice-sized room with a sitting area, although the place was as bleak as a highway tollbooth.

"This school's like a monastery, right? Nothing to do if you've got some downtime. Hell, with all this friggin' snow, you can't even get into town to catch a movie!"

"So, whatcha got in mind, Birkenfeld? A topless bar?"

I grinned and raised a finger. "A movie rental business."

"You're nuts."

"I'm serious! Lots of guys got TVs, but half the time all we can get is a weather report or Mork and Mindy. Now, if we had a bunch of VCRs and a pile of movies ..."

Now Beeker sat up on his bed too. "But won't we get busted for that? What about the regulations?"

"I already checked the regs." I grinned. "Nothing against making money on campus."

"You're a wily bastard," said Beeker.

"I know."

That weekend, we pooled all our cash, drove down to Boston, and came back with four VCRs, thirty movie tapes, six movie posters, and a color TV. Then we measured our sitting room, went into Northfield, and bought wood paneling, hardware, wall-to-wall carpet, and three plush lounge chairs (we figured if cadets didn't have a TV, they could pay the fee and watch a flick in our "theater"). Before long, we had our place looking like a French cinema, and soon the word spread like wildfire from our Kilo Company barracks.

They came in droves! The guys were thrilled to be able to plop down a few bucks, take a VCR back to their rooms, and watch the latest Stallone flick. Some of them only rented the machines, so I figured they had a stash of porn somewhere. But if they got gigged for that (army parlance for "chewed out"), it was none of my business. And for the guys who wanted to just rent a film and watch it in our theater, of course we supplied popcorn at a very reasonable rate.

So pretty soon Dave and I were enjoying that ultimate goal of all businesses, Return on Investment, with which we paid for our books, extra-fancy military gear, off-campus beers, and weekend trips to Burlington, Vermont. It was all going smooth as silk, until one night when a big fist hammered on our door. I cracked it open.

Shit! Colonel Carbone!

Dave's eyes bugged out like a summer cicada, and as I pulled the door open we snapped to attention.

Carbone was a regular full-bird US Army colonel and our Commandant of Cadets advisor. His hair was high and tight, his buckles and brass like gold bullion, and he walked into our room and said nothing. We stood there like ice sculptures as his eyes scanned our wood paneling, the posters, the ordered stacks of VCRs, and a bookshelf lined with entertainment. He looked down at his spit-shined boots mashed in our high-pile carpet, and then at our fat leather loungers. Then he nodded.

"I'm impressed, gentlemen. This is considerably nicer than my own quarters." Something akin to a smile crossed his lips. "Carry on."

He spun on a heel and walked out. I turned to Dave and grinned.

"I told you there was nothing in the regs!"

"Jesus!" He laughed. "I almost pissed my pants!"

At the end of my sophomore year, I headed for home and applied for a few summer jobs in the Boston area. With a major in economics and a military bearing, I suppose I was attractive to the Human Resources folks, who were accustomed to rejecting long-haired college students with pot-pink eyes. I landed a job at one of Boston's finest and oldest financial institutions, State Street Bank and Trust Company. The pay was fantastic, about four thousand bucks for the summer, and during three months of fetching coffee for money managers and running stock reports back and forth to the trading floor, I learned more about the real world of high finance than anything my professors could offer.

Somewhere in the back of my mind I realized that if I'd really been serious about becoming a fighter pilot, I would have sought out a job in aerospace. But the money in banking was seductive and I did have a weakness for cash. As it turned out, the writing was on the wall.

By the end of my junior year I was a senior cadet and upperclassman, barking at the Rooks, strong as a bull and breezing through the training routines and business classes. That summer I worked at State Street again, and in the early autumn I was back at Norwich for my final year. I was standing on the parade field one fine foliage day, watching the newbies try to figure out left face from right face, when I felt a presence beside me. It was Colonel Carbone.

"Cadet Birkenfeld," he said as a drill instructor's cadence calls echoed across the field. "I've been meaning to have a talk with you."

"Sir?"

"You're a good troop; smart, disciplined, and determined. But I think you need to reconsider your future."

I turned and looked down at him. When you're my height, you pretty much have to look down at everybody. "How's that, Sir?"

Colonel Carbone gave it to me straight, no chaser. "You're never going to be a fighter pilot, Brad. Nowadays, all those guys are Air Force Academy graduates, engineering majors with four-point-oh scores. You're good, but you're a finance guy, and you've only got a three-point-oh." He shrugged, almost an apology. "And besides, you're just too damn big for an F-16 cockpit. They'd have to squeeze you in with butter and a shoehorn."

I wasn't really shocked. The cadets always talked about their realistic chances of getting what they wanted in the military, and I already knew my odds were slim. Carbone was just confirming my suspicions.

"Well, what do you recommend, Sir?"

"Adjust your sights," he said. "Think of something else you'll be happy with. If you carry on with this and join the air force, you're going to wind up as a fucking missile launch officer one mile underground in Nebraska."

And that was it. I took his remarks to heart, but I didn't whine or get depressed or think I'd wasted my college years. I thought about that Clint Eastwood line from Dirty Harry, "A man's got to know his limitations." So, maybe I'd never be a fighter jockey, but I already knew I could be an ace in banking and finance.

In the winter of 1987, I packed my bags and gave one last salute to Norwich University (Exhibit 3). I'd been accepted to complete my last senior semester overseas at Richmond College in South Kensington, England, and I was totally thrilled at the prospect of immersing myself in an international center of finance, making new foreign friends, and absorbing a wealth of European culture. I was fully formed now, sculpted, ready. I knew I would never be a war hero, but I was ready to conquer the world.

And that's how I embarked on that long road, which included a pit stop in a prison cell.

But if you'd told me back then that at the end of its twists and turns, pleasures, intrigues, and adventures, Schuylkill awaited, I would have said ...

"You're out of your mind. Birkenfelds never do time."

CHAPTER 2

BOSTON MASSACRE


"A superior man is modest in his speech, but exceeds in his actions."

— CONFUCIUS, CHINESE PHILOSOPHER


STATE STREET BANK AND Trust Company — 1989 The first time I saw Nick Lopardo, the Chief Executive Officer of State Street Global Advisors, I thought he'd walked off the set of some Godfather sequel filming down the street and wandered into the wrong building.

He came barreling through the analysts' floor, six-foot-two and at least two-fifty, stuffed into a gleaming silver suit with a blood-red tie, and he was trailed by a beefy bodyguard with a prosthetic hook for a right hand. Lopardo had thick black hair, eyebrows like centipedes, a busted nose, and a jaw wider than his fullback neck. His face was red from some sort of meeting that had pissed him off, and as he stomped past the desks, making coffee mugs tremble, the first thing I ever heard him say was directed at some kid who wasn't quick enough to spot him.

"Get your feet off the goddamn desk! This ain't a dugout at Fenway!"

The kid jumped in his chair and snapped his feet down so fast I thought he'd wet himself, and as we watched Lopardo storm though a pair of glass doors for the elevator, my buddy Rick James leaned over and whispered, "That's the new boss."

Nicholas A. Lopardo. Not the very model of a stuffy Boston banker.

The son of a scrap-metal shop owner in Brooklyn, he'd played shortstop in baseball and fullback in football while at Susquehanna University in Pennsylvania. He'd only gotten a bachelor's degree in marketing and management, figured he didn't need any of that Wharton B-School crap, and had taken the mean streets of Little Italy out into the world of high finance. He'd spent eighteen years at Equitable Life marketing institutional pension plans, and everyone at State Street knew he was there to turn the firm's old-fashioned snobbery of catering to blue-blooded rich folk into something much, much bigger.

When Lopardo arrived at State Street in 1987, the money-management arm had $18 billion in assets. When he finally left in 2001, he'd grown it to over $700 billion. We were all in awe of him. We all wanted to be him. He was loyal to his employees and protective as a Doberman, but also demanding as hell. Nick Lopardo took no prisoners. You had to be careful around the guy. Whenever he boomed, "People, we're gonna make a killing," no one was ever sure if he was talking about profits or planning to garrote some goon like Al Capone.

So, Nick Lopardo set the tune, and the rest of us danced to it.

State Street Bank and Trust Company was my first landing on the shores of big-time finance. I'd been there before, working a summer job between college semesters, but I had pretty much been in the basement along with the other Warren Buffett wannabes. We were glorified messengers, hauling piles of files for bankers we only called "Sir," delivering sandwiches and sodas to meetings about subjects way over our heads, taking notes for quick-talking superiors, and then running them off to whoever needed them, fast. For the most part I'd felt like a kid running chits for bookies, but the pay was great and the summer weather in Boston was hot and steamy. There were more than seventy universities and colleges in and around Boston, and the girls who stayed on for summer internships wore practically nothing.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Lucifer's Banker by Bradley C. Birkenfeld. Copyright © 2016 Bradley C. Birkenfeld. Excerpted by permission of Greenleaf Book Group Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Prologue: Fall Guy 1

Chapter I Making the Cut 17

Chapter II Boston Massacre 25

Chapter III Cracking the Code 43

Chapter IV Sports Cars and Models and Yachts, Oh My! 63

Chapter V Burned in Bern 85

Chapter VI Counterpunch 105

Chapter VII Tarantula 121

Chapter VIII The Mexico Setup 141

Chapter IX Tightrope 163

Chapter X Hunted 185

Chapter XI The Twilight Zone 199

Chapter XII Blowup 221

Chapter XIII Scapegoat 239

Chapter XIV Camp Cupcake 255

Chapter XV Rich Man, Poor Man 275

Acknowledgments 281

Appendix 285

Reading Group Guide 303

Author Q&A 307

About the Author 319

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Lucifers Banker: The Untold Story of How I Destroyed Swiss Bank Secrecy 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a fantastic book every tax payer in the US and worldwide should read. A true American hero history! Brad explains his remarkable journey as a Swiss Private banker in Geneva Switzerland; good fun times with pretty ladies, fancy cars, bad times at UBS and the roller coaster ride he went trough from the moment he decided to risk at all and blow the whistle on Swiss bank secrecy for the first time ever in history. As well exposing shocking raw corruption details involving the DOJ and the ugly truth of some other people in the US Government. Brad shocking revelations helped the US recover over $15 Billion dollars back to honest tax payers. Like a true American hero, he risked his life, freedom and had to give up on a career that he worked so hard to achieve. All for the good causes because he's a great man. After reading it, you will be surprised with the knowledge you walk away with from such an entertaining read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Fascinating story! Our own government shielding tax cheats from justice while the whistleblower who brought down Swiss bank secrecy is jailed! True story about the depths of corruption within Department of Justice, collusion with big banks, and how the powerful and wealthy play by different rules. A must read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A tell all story by a former American banker who worked for the Swiss bank UBS. The information he provided broke the Swiss banks secrecy and made it possible for the US Government to obtain previously withheld banking information for US citizens. Although he was prosecuted, and served prison time, he was given a whistle blower reward over $104 million based on the amount of taxes collected by the IRS. Should he have been sentenced to prison? That is up to each reader to decide after reading the book. I found some of the names mentioned to be eye-openers but not surprising. I enjoyed the book and do not believe that he should have been sentenced to prison. I have rated it 5 stars and highly recommend it to anyone who wants to have a look behind the scenes at what has happened in the past and more than likely will continue to happen in the future. I received an ARC from Netgalley for my unbiased review.
SheTreadsSoftly More than 1 year ago
Lucifer's Banker: The Untold Story of How I Destroyed Swiss Bank Secrecy by Bradley C. Birkenfeld is a recommended account of how one man took on the Swiss banking industry. Working his way up in the banking industry, Bradley Birkenfeld was a success. He lived and worked in Switzerland as a private banker for the largest bank in the world, UBS. UBS specialized in providing the ultrawealthy the way to hide their money, especially from paying taxes. Birkenfeld knew how the game worked, with its secret numbered accounts and the tactics used to make sure their clients could have access to their millions with no penalties. It came to his attention that UBS had buried deep in the bank's files an official policy in place to cover their backs if any government came asking about taxes. Birkenfeld realized that the policy would throw him and his co-workers under the bus while protecting the bank and the managers. That was when he decided to take matters into his own hands and blow the whistle himself, telling the US government how the Swiss banking industry worked. Birkenfeld brought his information to the Department of Justice first and was treated like he was wasting their time. The part about the Department of Justice is going to anger you, but it shouldn't really, given current events. It is no longer about justice but political maneuvering, Washington insiders, and cronyism. When Birkenfeld took his secrets to the US Senate, the Securities and Exchange Commission, and the Internal Revenue Service, he was finally taken seriously and action was taken. Then, and this presents a perfect example of why the Department of Justice needs to be gutted and overhauled, at the same time he was cooperating with the US Government, the Department of Justice was still pursuing him. He was arrested and served thirty months in federal prison. But Birkenfeld got the last laugh. "When he emerged, the Internal Revenue Service gave him a whistle-blower award for $104 million, the largest such reward in history." This is a fascinating account of inside the secret Swiss banking industry and our government’s justice system. Lucifer's Banker is written in a conversational style as if Birkenfeld was sitting down with you telling his life's story. It does have rather a 007 feel to it, which is alluded to several times. I guess the biggest problem for me, as a female reviewer, is it is also a bit too chauvinistic. There is a sexist boy's club vibe reflected in comments throughout the book - like older 007 movies - and numerous times beautiful "girls" are mentioned as sex objects and play things. Comments like "gorgeous girls who care only about pleasing you and having a great time" and this not-very-amusing-to-me story: "I’d decided to take a companion along. Marketa was a bar hostess in Prague—tall, slim, pretty, and just turned twenty-two.... She was a sweet girl, innocent in many ways...Let’s just say there’s nothing quite like gratitude sex." Not cool. Not amusing. So, in the end this is an interesting book and a riveting account about whistle blowing on the Swiss banking industry and corruption in the Department of Justice. It's also written, in my opinion, for male readers or stories like the one above, and there are more than one, would have been left out. To reflect this I lowered my rating. It would be a much better book had the stories of sexual escapades been left out and Birkenfeld concentrated on telling us the important facts.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This thrilling real life page-turner not only exposes the corrupt Swiss banking system, UBS in particular, but it also exposes for the first time the corruption inside the United States Department of Justice related to the Swiss bank investigations. Great read, cover-to-cover.