Opinion Brief

Can WikiLeaks bring down Wall Street?

Julian Assange says his document-dumping site will take on a titan of U.S. finance — possibly Bank of America — early next year

WikiLeaks chief Julian Assange, the controversial data dumper behind "cablegate," has already signaled his next target: Wall Street. In an interview with Forbes, Assange says that early next year, he will expose corruption at "a big U.S. bank," in a "megaleak" that "could take down a bank or two." Although Assange declined to be more specific, speculation is swirling around Bank of America. After the chaos WikiLeaks wreaked in diplomatic circles, should the largest U.S. bank, or Wall Street as a whole, "start panicking"? (Watch a CNBC discussion about the rumors)

How much worse can Assange make Wall Street look? Could WikiLeaks really topple a big U.S. bank? "Probably not," says Halah Touryalai in Forbes. At worst it could temporarily "drive down the stock price of the bank in play" — a consequence that Bank of America is already dealing with, based on the early speculation. Even if the U.S. were willing to let a large bank fail, what secrets could Assange reveal that two years of intense media and legal scrutiny have failed to unearth already?
"WikiLeaks can't wipe out a major bank"

Assange wants to create anarchy. Wall Street should be worried: In a former job at a big U.S. bank, says an anonymous analyst at Stone Street Advisors, "I knew enough about how screwed up certain things were" that I could have made trouble. By "playing God" with legitimate business tools like "trade secrets," Assange will send 2008-style "ripples throughout the capital markets."
"Thoughts on WikiLeaks & efficient markets"

He's got nothing. Banks have tighter security than the government: Thanks to "a decade of prosecutorial aggression," bankers have learned to never write down anything they'd be unwilling to see "blown up into a 48-point headline," says Megan McArdle in The Atlantic. And if they did document some sort of criminal activity, no one would be able to access it since bank IT workers are "pretty diligent about making sure that you only have access to the stuff you're authorized for." So like the diplomatic cables, Assange likely has "a bunch of stuff that is embarrassing" but no true smoking guns.
"WikiLeaks targets a bank"

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