2011-01-11 Bank Leak 2011 - A History

Speculation was renewed in early January as to the subject of Wikileaks anticipated release, related to a major American bank. WL Central has gathered the history of this story over the last two years to provide context for the speculation. This feature will be updated as more becomes available.

October 2009
In a ComputerWorld article from October 2009, Dan Nystedt reported on an interview with Julian Assange from the Hack In The Box conference in Malaysia. The relevant quote is the following:

"At the moment, for example, we are sitting on 5GB from Bank of America, one of the executive's hard drives," he said. "Now how do we present that? It's a difficult problem. We could just dump it all into one giant Zip file, but we know for a fact that has limited impact. To have impact, it needs to be easy for people to dive in and search it and get something out of it."

November 2010
In an Andy Greenberg interview with Julian Assange preparing for a cover story by Forbes, some information came out which indicated that a "megaleak" on "a major American bank" would be released "early in the new year." The substance of the leak was elaborated upon, but the bank was not named. A full reading of the interview is highly recommended for an understanding of Wikileaks intentions as regards the leak.

You’ve been focused on the U.S. military mostly in the last year. Does that mean you have private sector-focused leaks in the works?

Yes. If you think about it, we have a publishing pipeline that’s increasing linearly, and an exponential number of leaks, so we’re in a position where we have to prioritize our resources so that the biggest impact stuff gets released first.

So do you have very high impact corporate stuff to release then?

Yes, but maybe not as high impact…I mean, it could take down a bank or two.

That sounds like high impact.

But not as big an impact as the history of a whole war. But it depends on how you measure these things.

Later on in the interview, the conversation returned to the bank leak.

These megaleaks, as you call them, we haven’t seen any of those from the private sector.

No, not at the same scale as for the military.

Will we?

Yes. We have one related to a bank coming up, that’s a megaleak. It’s not as big a scale as the Iraq material, but it’s either tens or hundreds of thousands of documents depending on how you define it.

Is it a U.S. bank?

Yes, it’s a U.S. bank.

One that still exists?

Yes, a big U.S. bank.

The biggest U.S. bank?

No comment.

When will it happen?

Early next year. I won’t say more.

What do you want to be the result of this release?

[Pauses] I’m not sure.

It will give a true and representative insight into how banks behave at the executive level in a way that will stimulate investigations and reforms, I presume.

Usually when you get leaks at this level, it’s about one particular case or one particular violation. For this, there’s only one similar example. It’s like the Enron emails. Why were these so valuable? When Enron collapsed, through court processes, thousands and thousands of emails came out that were internal, and it provided a window into how the whole company was managed. It was all the little decisions that supported the flagrant violations.

This will be like that. Yes, there will be some flagrant violations, unethical practices that will be revealed, but it will also be all the supporting decision-making structures and the internal executive ethos that cames out, and that’s tremendously valuable. Like the Iraq War Logs, yes there were mass casualty incidents that were very newsworthy, but the great value is seeing the full spectrum of the war.

You could call it the ecosystem of corruption. But it’s also all the regular decision making that turns a blind eye to and supports unethical practices: the oversight that’s not done, the priorities of executives, how they think they’re fulfilling their own self-interest. The way they talk about it.

How many dollars were at stake in this?

We’re still investigating. All I can say is it’s clear there were unethical practices, but it’s too early to suggest there’s criminality. We have to be careful about applying criminal labels to people until we’re very sure.

Can you tell me anything about what kind of unethical behavior we’re talking about?


December 01, 2010

The Forbes interview had a substantial (but brief) effect on Bank of America shares, as well as on Goldman-Sachs, as this France24 article reports:

Shares in Bank of America, the largest US bank, tumbled more than three percent Tuesday amid speculation it will be the next target of leaked documents from WikiLeaks.

Shares closed 3.18 percent lower at 10.95 dollars.

In an interview published Monday by Forbes magazine, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange claimed a fresh "megaleak" will target a major US bank "early next year."...

Assange mentioned Goldman Sachs by name in the interview, but did not confirm the Wall Street investment giant will be the target of the leak.

Goldman shares fell 1.75 percent to 156.14 dollars Tuesday.

December 18, 2010
About a week after Swiss Post, Paypal, Visa and Mastercard decided to cut off donation transactions to Wikileaks, the Bank of America announced a similar decision. As the New York Times reported:

In a sign of the increasing tensions between WikiLeaks and the corporate world, Bank of America has said it will no longer help process payments for the organization, which released a huge cache of secret State Department cables in late November and has threatened to “take down” a major United States bank with another data dump.

“Bank of America joins in the actions previously announced by MasterCard, PayPal, Visa Europe and others and will not process transactions of any type that we have reason to believe are intended for WikiLeaks,” the bank said in a statement issued on Friday. “This decision is based upon our reasonable belief that WikiLeaks may be engaged in activities that are, among other things, inconsistent with our internal policies for processing payments.”

Wikileaks immediately responded through its Twitter account, first by announcing the BoA decision:

Bank of America bans ALL transactions to WikiLeaks http://is.gd/iW0Jl receive better interest: http://wikileaks.ch/support.html

Next, Wikileaks asked for a principled consumer action in response to the decision.

We ask that all people who love freedom close out their accounts at Bank of America.

Finally, Wikileaks issued an entirely more ominous statement, suggesting that it would be wise, or unsafe, to continue to do business with Bank of America:

Does your business do business with Bank of America? Our advise is to place your funds somewhere safer.

December 20, 2010

DomainWire reported that Bank of America was buying up domain names in an attempt to preempt its critics, and to protect its senior members from having fun made of them on the internet. The move was the subject of much mirth. The story is elaborated upon in a Dec 23 Financial Times article:

Hundreds of website addresses that disparage Bank of America executives and board members have been registered in recent days in an apparent effort to protect the bank and its senior leaders, according to internet companies who track the buying and selling of such domain names.

More than 300 addresses that disparage BofA officials using variations on “sucks” and “blows”, including BrianMoynihanBlows.com and BrianMoynihanSucks.com, referring to the bank’s chief executive, were registered on December 17.

Domain names that targeted Charles Noski, the chief financial officer, and board member Charles Rossotti were also registered.

The company doing the registering was MarkMonitor, a San Francisco-based group that protects the identity of large corporations.

December 22, 2010
In a Charlotte Observer article, Rick Rothacker reported that Bank of America was shaping up its security procedures:

A Bank of America employee told the Observer that it appeared the bank had stepped up security internally recently, taking steps to block access to websites such as Gmail on company laptops. The bank declined to comment on security procedures.

Elsewhere, Andy Greenberg addressed a rumour that had developed, from a paywalled article in The Times, that Assange had confirmed that Bank of America was the target. Greenberg clarified that no such thing had been confirmed in the Times article.

January 2, 2011
A New York Times article outlined various strategies the Bank of America has been employing to prepare for what it appears to believe is a substantial and imminent public affairs situation:

a team of 15 to 20 top Bank of America officials, led by the chief risk officer, Bruce R. Thompson, has been overseeing a broad internal investigation — scouring thousands of documents in the event that they become public, reviewing every case where a computer has gone missing and hunting for any sign that its systems might have been compromised.

In addition to the internal team drawn from departments like finance, technology, legal and communications, the bank has brought in Booz Allen Hamilton, the consulting firm, to help manage the review. It has also sought advice from several top law firms about legal problems that could arise from a disclosure, including the bank’s potential liability if private information was disclosed about clients.

January 5, 2011
It is no more than an unconfirmed report attributed to nameless sources, but this blog post got some attention, purporting to provide details on the likely content of a projected forthcoming Bank of America leak:

Informed sources in New York last night were suggesting that the main ‘smoking gun’ in the stolen Bank of America files in Wikileaks’ possession is “the creation of fraudulent loans ready for repackaging on a massive scale”. During the US housing bubble, most top banking firms either repackaged or sold on sub-prime loans for slicing into deliberately indecipherable credit swaps. But very few have been fingered for knowingly doctoring loan forms – and to date nobody has been charged with falsification as a company policy…where the evidence consists of an electronic record.

January 7, 2011
Amid growing speculation as to why Wikileaks had halted parallel publication of cables with its media partners on the 5th of January, CNBC's Senior Editor John Carney voiced a suspicion that this was in preparation for the next big release:

The last release of diplomatic cables from WikiLeaks came out on January 4th. This three day gap between Wikileaks releases is the longest ever to occur since Wikileaks began releasing the diplomatic cables.

I suspect this means something big is about to come out of WikiLeaks. Something they are taking their time to put together. And that is likely to be the much talked about release of the tens of thousands of documents WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange shows a culture of corruption inside a US bank.

We still don't know for sure what bank the documents will allegedly indict. But all indications point to Bank of America [BAC 14.69 0.29 (+2.01%) ].

January 11, 2011
After his bail hearing Julian Assange made an announcement that could be interpreted as indicating that Wikileaks was preparing to release "other materials" - that is, materials other than the Cablegate material.

"We are stepping up our publishing for matters related to Cablegate and other materials," Assange said. "Those will shortly be occurring through our newspaper partners around the world -- big and small newspapers and some human rights organizations."

Furthermore, John Carney reported that an "unnamed source" had confirmed that the Bank of America would be the subject of the next leak.

Bank of America is the target of the next "megaleak" from WikiLeaks, according to a person who has close contact with top people at Wikileaks.


Our source has confirmed that Bank of America is indeed the target of the next big leak. The source couldn't elaborate on the materials held by Assange.

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