You've likely never heard of the name Daniel Schlicksup, and it's a safe bet that Caterpillar Inc. wishes it never did, either. The 55-year-old is a former accounting executive at the world's biggest maker of bulldozers, and as a long feature at Bloomberg explains, he just might become the highest-paid corporate whistleblower in history. As in, up to $600 million if what he says is true and the IRS is able to collect. Schlicksup says Caterpillar set up a shady accounting structure in Switzerland that enabled it to drastically cut the amount of taxes it pays to the US. The IRS, which raided the company headquarters in Peoria, Ill., earlier this year, thinks Caterpillar owes about $2 billion. Under the agency's own formula, whistleblowers are entitled to up to 30% of whatever it collects.
The company insists that everything it did was aboveboard and that it investigated all of Schlicksup's complaints over the years about the Swiss setup. Schlicksup maintains that supervisors hushed up his complaints and retaliated against him by eliminating his position and transferring him to the IT department. "The message to me was clear," he once testified. "We're going to hurt you a little, and if you don't keep quiet, we're going to hurt you a lot." He left the company five years ago, and the case is pending. It's unclear whether the Justice Department will go after Caterpillar on criminal charges, but that wouldn't affect the IRS' attempt to recoup $2 billion. Click for the full story, which details the controversial creation of the Caterpillar Société à Responsabilité Limitée LLC, or CSARL, in Geneva. (Read more Longform stories.)