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UBS Agrees to Turn Over Names; Obama Connection Unmentioned (Update)

John on August 19, 2009 at 4:05 pm

Today the IRS announces a major settlement with Swiss bank UBS:

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As IRS Commissioner Doug Schulman says “we found that UBS was facilitating tax evasion.” He goes on to explain that several tax-cheats whose names had been released by UBS earlier this year have been taken to court and convicted of evasion.

And yet, completely unmentioned in all of this is the fact that the CEO of UBS Americas Group is Robert Wolf. Who is Robert Wolf?

As I explained here, he is Obama’s biggest bundler, i.e. the single individual who rounded up the most cash for Obama’s run for the White House. He may have pulled in as much as $2M for the President. In thanks, Obama gave him a seat on the Economic Recovery Advisory Board where, so far as I know, he still sits.

There are a bunch of questions to be asked. Did any of Obama’s run-for-office-money come from Wolf’s tax-cheating clients? Is the President troubled that his biggest fundraiser aids and abets tax cheats? Will anyone in the MSM ever bother to ask any of these questions?

You can imagine if this happened under Bush. Major, major story.

Update: According to Business Week:

Mr. Wolf is responsible for accelerating the development of UBS’s client base and further coordinating UBS’s Investment Banking, Wealth Management and Asset Management businesses in the US.

Update 2: UBS was Obama’s 12th highest contributor in 2008. Much of that money was bundled by Mr. Wolf.

Also found this article from the Nation describing in detail the history of UBS and the court case against them which led to the current settlement:

Ultimately UBS got caught, not by virtue of diligent law enforcement, much less the Senate’s investigation, but by sheer accident. In late June, Bradley Birkenfeld, a senior private banker who’d worked with UBS from 2001 until late 2005 out of Switzerland, and then continued to service the same clients from Miami, pleaded guilty to helping dozens of wealthy American clients launder money. His name surfaced when his largest client, Igor Olenicoff, a Russian émigré property developer from Southern California, was accidentally discovered by the IRS to be reporting much less income tax than he needed to justify his $1.6 billion measurement on the Forbes 400 list of billionaires.

With Birkenfeld’s help, Olenicoff succeeded in parking several hundred million dollars’ of unreported assets offshore–including millions in accounts controlled by a Bahamian company that he said had been set by former Russian Premier Boris Yeltsin. Ultimately, Olenicoff settled with the IRS for $52 million in back taxes, one of the largest tax evasion cases in Southern California history, and also agreed to repatriate $346 million from Switzerland and Liechtenstein. In theory he faced up to three years of jail time, but–following standard US practice of going easy on big-ticket tax evaders who have no “priors”–he received only two years probation and three weeks of community service.

As noted, Olenicoff also gave up his UBS private bankers, including Birkenfeld, who plead guilty in June to facilitating tax fraud and is now awaiting sentencing–the first US prosecution of a foreign private banker in history. It was Birkenfeld’s revelations, in turn, that led to the disclosure of UBS’ program for wealthy Americans, and at least one-half of the Senate investigation.

The most important point is that this entire program would clearly have been impossible without the knowledge and approval of the bank’s most senior officials in Switzerland, and probably some senior US executives as well — although the committee did not press this point.

Also note that Raoul Weil, former chairman of UBS Wealth Management, is now considered a fugitive from justice for failing to surrender himself to authorities:

While Mr. Weil is the most senior UBS executive to be swept up in the investigation, the inquiry is focusing on other unnamed senior executives and bankers at the bank. Those people, according to the Weil indictment, “occupied positions of the highest level of management within the Swiss bank,” including senior positions in the legal, compliance, tax and risk departments.

Update 3: Comparing this page and this story, it looks as if fugitive Raoul Weil and Robert Wolf shared some time on the UBS Executive Board. Wolf is still on the board, though it appears Weil no longer is.

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