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Last week I posted an item here on an interview with Bradley Birkenfeld, a former banker who “blew the whistle on thousands of secret bank accounts rich Americans held at Swiss giant UBS.” Birkenfeld claimed that American politicians had been among those with off-shore accounts with the bank and further said that UBS “had an office in Washington that we all referred to as the PEP office—for ‘Politically Exposed People’.”
Birkenfeld subsequently offered another interview, this one with Reuters. It’s also worth a look:
Arguing that a previous investigation of the bank was hampered by incompetence and political cover-ups, Birkenfeld said a U.S. legal settlement with UBS should be tossed out immediately so the bank can be hit with much stiffer penalties and fines. “They dropped the ball on this totally,” said Birkenfeld, referring to the U.S. Department of Justice.
“Pardon the expression, but they should have some balls here,” he told Reuters. He spoke in a telephone interview from a prison in Minersville, Pennsylvania, where he began serving a 40-month sentence in January…
“The political influence of UBS is massive,” Kohn said, when asked about the bank’s ties in Washington. “They’ve purposely put in high place politicians or former politicians.”
That last line is a clear reference to former Senator Phil Gramm, who took a high-paying executive position with UBS after leaving office.
Incidentally, Birkenfeld is the only person involved in the scandal who has been hit with serious prison time. His lawyers plan to submit a clemency petition to President Obama.
More from Ken Silverstein:
Perspective — October 23, 2013, 8:00 am
How pro-oil Louisiana politicians have shaped American environmental policy
Postcard — October 16, 2013, 8:00 am
A trip to one of the properties at issue in Louisiana’s oil-pollution lawsuits
I recently spent a semester teaching writing at an elite liberal-arts college. At strategic points around the campus, in shades of yellow and green, banners displayed the following pair of texts. The first was attributed to the college’s founder, which dates it to the 1920s. The second was extracted from the latest version of the institution’s mission statement:
The paramount obligation of a college is to develop in its students the ability to think clearly and independently, and the ability to live confidently, courageously, and hopefully.
Let us take a moment to compare these texts. The first thing to observe about the older one is that it is a sentence. It expresses an idea by placing concepts in relation to one another within the kind of structure that we call a syntax. It is, moreover, highly wrought: a parallel structure underscored by repetition, five adverbs balanced two against three.
Percentage of Britons who cannot name the city that provides the setting for the musical Chicago:
An Australian entrepreneur was selling oysters raised in tanks laced with Viagra.
A naked man believed to be under the influence of LSD rammed his pickup truck into two police cars.
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“Shelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.”