March 2009—2014: The Clintons and the Clinton Foundation benefit after Hillary Clinton helps Swiss bank UBS.

Clinton appears with Swiss Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey, (left), at the State Department on July 31, 2009, announcing a settlement in a legal case involving UBS. (Credit: J. Scott Applewhite / The Associated Press)

Clinton appears with Swiss Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey, (left), at the State Department on July 31, 2009, announcing a settlement in a legal case involving UBS. (Credit: J. Scott Applewhite / The Associated Press)

In 2007, a whistleblower gave information about thousands of US citizens who were putting money in Swiss mega-bank UBS to avoid paying US taxes. The IRS [Internal Revenue Service] sues UBS to learn the identities of US citizens with secret bank accounts. UBS faces either complying and violating strict Swiss banking secrecy laws, or refusing and facing criminal charges in a US court.

The US government decides to treat this as a political matter with the Swiss government instead of just a legal problem with the bank. In March 2009, Clinton meets with Swiss officials and brings up a number of unrelated issues where the US wants help from Switzerland, such as using Swiss neutrality to help release a US citizen imprisoned in Iran. The Swiss help with these other issues, and appear to get concessions in the UBS case in return.

On July 31, 2009, Clinton announces a legal settlement: the US government dismisses the IRS lawsuit, and UBS turns over data on only 4,450 accounts instead of the 52,000 accounts worth $18 billion wanted by the IRS.

Some US politicians criticize the deal. For instance, Senator Carl Levin (D), says, “It is disappointing that the US government went along.” A senior IRS official will later complain that many US citizens escaped scrutiny due to the deal.

Former president Bill Clinton and UBS Wealth Management Chief Executive, Bob McCann, took the stage at a Clinton Global Initiative event in 2011. (Credit: Brian Kersey /UPI/ Landov)

Former president Bill Clinton and UBS Wealth Management Chief Executive, Bob McCann, took the stage at a Clinton Global Initiative event in 2011. (Credit: Brian Kersey /UPI/ Landov)

UBS then helps the Clintons in various ways:

  • Total UBS donations to the Clinton Foundation grow from less than $60,000 through 2008 to about $600,000 by the end of 2014.
  • Starting in early 2010, UBS works with the foundation to launch entrepreneurship and inner-city loan programs, and lends the programs $32 million. In 2012, the foundation will tout these programs as one of their major accomplishments.
  • UBS gives the foundation $100,000 for a charity golf tournament.
  • In 2011, UBS pays Bill Clinton $350,000 for discussing the economy at a UBS event.
  • Also in 2011, UBS pays Bill Clinton $1.5 million to take part in eleven question and answer sessions with a UBS official, making UBS his largest corporate source of speech income.

In 2015, the Wall Street Journal will comment, “there is no evidence of any link between Mrs. Clinton’s involvement in the case and the bank’s donations to [the foundation], or its hiring of Mr. Clinton. But her involvement with UBS is a prime example of how the Clintons’ private and political activities overlap.”

Lawrence Lessig, a Harvard law professor and Democrat, will say of the Clintons, “They’ve engaged in behavior to make people wonder: What was this about? Was there something other than deciding the merits of these cases?” (The Wall Street Journal, 7/30/2015)

The Atlantic magazine will comment, “If you’re Bill Clinton and your wife has recently intervened in her capacity as a cabinet secretary to help a giant corporation avert a significant threat to its bottom-line, the very least you could do, if only to avoid the appearance of impropriety, is to avoid negotiating seven-figure paydays with that same corporation. [The fact he didn’t do that] is particularly jaw-dropping because ultra-wealthy Bill Clinton has virtually unlimited opportunities to give lucrative speeches to any number of audiences not directly implicated by decisions that his wife made as secretary of state.” (The Atlantic, 7/31/2015)

September 23, 2010: A CGI commitment benefits a for-profit company partly owned by friends of the Clintons.

Julie Tauber McMahon (Credit: Getty Images)

Julie Tauber McMahon (Credit: Getty Images)

The Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) is a yearly conference connected to the Clinton Foundation that helps inspire and arrange donations to solve problems around the world.

At the personal request of Bill Clinton, the September 2010 CGI conference sets up a financial commitment to benefit a for-profit company partly owned by people who have ties to Bill and Hillary Clinton. The company, Energy Pioneer Solutions Inc., is a small start-up that has a business plan to insulate homes and let the owners pay through their monthly utility bills. The company is 29% owned by Scott Kleeb, a Democrat who twice ran for Congress from Nebraska; 29% by Jane Eckert, an art gallery owner; 29% by Julie Tauber McMahon, a close friend of Bill Clinton; 5% by Andrew Tobias, Democratic National Committee treasurer and longtime Clinton friend; and 5% by Mark Weiner, a former Rhode Island Democratic chairman, and also a longtime Clinton friend.

Out of thousands of CGI commitments, this is one of only a handful that involve private individuals making a personal financial investment in a for-profit company, instead of donations to non-profits or charities. The commitment is added to a database at the CGI website, but it will be removed several months later.

The Wall Street Journal will later report, “The reason was to avoid calling attention to Mr. Clinton’s friendship with one company co-owner, Ms. McMahon, and to protect the integrity of Mr. Clinton and the Clinton Global Initiative, according to people familiar with the matter.” Bill Clinton also personally endorsed the company to Energy Secretary Steven Chu, resulting in a $812,000 grant from the Energy Department that year. The IRS requires that tax-exempt charitable organizations like CGI “must not be organized or operated for the benefit of private interests.” The $2 million commitment is eventually achieved for the company, although it’s not clear which who gave and by how much. (The Wall Street Journal, 5/12/2016)

In 2014, it will be alleged in some tabloids that McMahon had a prolonged affair will Bill Clinton, roughly from 2001 until 2013, but McMahon will deny it and say they are just close friends. (The Daily Mail, 7/25/2014) (Heavy.com, 8/14/2014)