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WikiLeaks vs. Bank of America

"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," he told Forbes, concluding that the disclosure "could take down a bank or two."


Bank of America responded by saying, essentially, that this is old news and it doesn't know what Assange is talking about: "More than a year ago WikiLeaks claimed to have the computer hard drive of a Bank of America executive. Aside from the claims themselves we have no evidence that supports this assertion," a Bank of America spokesman told TheStreet. "We are unaware of any new claims by WikiLeaks that pertain specifically to Bank of America."

Needless to say, BofA's statement didn't inspire confidence.

There are two polar opposite - but equally valid - viewpoints on how the "megaleak" about the "megabank" might play out. Unfortunately, both views are founded on shaky ground.

One camp thinks Bank of America shares are selling off on nothing more than hype. But that view relies on a belief that its previous management would have acted in a scrupulous manner and disclosed important information up-front - something it had a terrible track record of doing. (Remember the Merrill bonuses, the Merrill losses and the bullying from Bernanke and Paulson to complete the deal?)

The other camp thinks the headline risk to Bank of America isn't worth the potential upside. But that view relies on the word of a guy who sounds, frankly, a little bonkers.

Assange's statements sound eerily like a conspiracy theorist with a little too much power. He also tends to overstate the importance of WikiLeaks' disclosures at times. For instance, while the diplomat leaks are certainly humiliating, there doesn't appear to be any groundbreaking information in them. And while earlier leaks provided details on U.S. military strategy, failures and terror targets, it's questionable whether making those details publicly available offset the danger posed to U.S. forces and foreign allies.

Assange began his career as a computer hacker, then hop-scotched around the world as something like an international genius-vagabond. The mother of his child left him in the early 1990s after police raided their home. More recently, Sweden issued an arrest warrant for Assange based on rape allegations and he now seems to be free on borrowed time. He's been hopping, once again, among various countries, unsure whether any of them will honor Sweden's potential request for extradition. (On Tuesday evening, Interpol added Assange to its list of "wanted" suspects, making it even more likely that he will have to face authorities soon.)
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