We’ve lived so long under the spell of hierarchy—from god-kings to feudal lords to party bosses—that only recently have we awakened to see not only that “regular” citizens have the capacity for self-governance, but that without their engagement our huge global crises cannot be addressed. The changes needed for human society simply to survive, let alone thrive, are so profound that the only way we will move toward them is if we ourselves, regular citizens, feel meaningful ownership of solutions through direct engagement. Our problems are too big, interrelated, and pervasive to yield to directives from on high.
—Frances Moore Lappé, excerpt from Time for Progressives to Grow Up

Friday, August 6, 2010

Telling Swiss secrets: A banker's betrayal, Part 1

by Michael Bronner from Global Post. This is Part 1 of 5, links to the rest are in this first article.

When the stories first broke in 2008 about the Swiss bank called UBS being under pressure by several Western governments to disclose information about tax evading billionaires, I was quite astonished. My understanding of the capitalist world is that those associated with finance capital represent the core of capitalist ruling classes. With UBS functioning as central bank for the Western countrie's central banks, I felt that they were untouchable. So, in 2008 reading reports (see this, and this) that this bank was under pressure from Western governments just did not make sense to me.

Well I've learned over the years that sometimes it takes years, sometimes many years, for the truth to finally come out. This news item, I think, goes a long way in explaining what really happened.

In a nutshell, the IRS while investigating a millionaire for tax evasion seized all of his records and computers. In spite of being advised to destroy these banking records by his UBS bank agent, he carelessly forgot or neglected to do so. The IRS discovered a lot in these records and ended up by questioning the UBS agent. The UBS agent, Birkenfeld, decided to turn whistle-blower by disclosing information about UBS operations that hid the money of the wealthy to evade taxes. 

Well, this presented quite an ugly problem for the ruling classes. To be brief, they went after the whistle-blower who divulged the information and is now serving jail time. Meanwhile,
...the investigations sent nearly 15,000 American tax offenders, the vast majority with undeclared UBS accounts, into the arms of a new IRS amnesty program, agreeing to pay billions in back taxes and fines to avoid prosecution themselves.
However, the article also disclosed that "the bank’s brokerage division serves more than two million U.S households. It is hard to believe that most of them banked at UBS because of their fondness of the Swiss.

And check this out:
Despite its long-running criminal conspiracy to defraud the U.S. government, UBS, one of the banks hardest hit in the subprime mortgage crisis, received $5 billion in a backdoor bailout through AIG, which honored some of its policies.

Last August, just three days after Birkenfeld was sentenced and five days after the U.S. and Swiss governments agreed to a settlement, President Barack Obama played 18 holes at Martha’s Vineyard’s Farm Neck Golf Club with the UBS Group Americas chairman and CEO, Robert Wolf, one of the top donors to his campaign and a member of the president’s economic recovery advisory board. UBS officials insist the bank’s U.S. offices had no knowledge of the Swiss-based fraud, despite Birkenfeld’s sworn testimony that UBS Americas coordinated the lavish marketing events in the U.S. for Swiss private bankers and their U.S. clients.
I was right--the ruling classes and their banks ARE untouchable. So let that be a lesson to all whistle-blowers--you don't rat on the ruling classes.