Wikileaks planning to spill the beans on major U.S. bank


Forbes magazine reported Nov. 29 that Wikileaks, the non-profit transparency collective responsible for releasing classified U.S. government documents on the Iraq and Afghanistan occupations — as well as the more recent U.S. diplomatic cables that have revealed behind-the-scenes international political machinations, embarrassing governments around the world — will turn its focus to corporate skullduggery in 2011.


In an interview with Wikileaks founder and director Julian Assange, Forbes quoted Assange as saying that his organization still has millions of documents it has yet to reveal, and that roughly half of them come from inside corporations — including pharmaceutical companies, finance companies, and energy firms, among other industries.


The article notes that this is not the first time Wikileaks has targeted corporations with its revelations:

[In 2009] WikiLeaks published documents from a pharma[ceutical] trade group implying that its lobbyists were receiving confidential documents from and exerting influence over a World Health Organization (WHO) project to fund drug research in the developing world. The resulting attention helped crater the WHO project.

In September 2009, commodities giant Trafigura filed an injunction that prevented British media from mentioning a damaging internal report. The memo showed the company had dumped tons of toxic waste in the Ivory Coast, chemicals that allegedly sickened 100,000 locals. But it couldn’t stop WikiLeaks from publishing the information. Trafigura eventually paid more than $200 million in settlements.


But perhaps its greatest corporate unmasking involved Iceland's Kaupthing Bank, which collapsed in October 2008 with $128 billion in debts, or around $400,000 per citizen. Wikileaks posted Kaupthing’s loan book on its site, showing that the bank's owners had siphoned off more than $6 billion for themselves and companies they own, often with little or no collateral. The information made WikiLeaks very popular in Iceland, and launched a broadly-supported legislative initiative to make the country a haven for data that others wish to hide.


The article quotes a former Icelandic journalist who now works for Wikilieaks, along with a noted author on corporate transparency, on ways that companies can prevent leaks. Their answer: Corporations shouldn't do anything they'd be afraid would be revealed — no scandals, no problems. Instead, notes Forbes writer Andy Greenberg without irony, "[m]ost corporations are turning to cybersecurity to shield their private parts." In other words, there's more money in continuing potentially embarrassing misdeeds than in avoiding stuff they don't want people to know about ...


UPDATE: Numerous media outlets have identified bail-out posterchild and ongoing criminal enterprise Bank of America as the most likely target of WikiLeaks' next big docu-dump — and apparently BofA thinks so too. Corporate fanboy website Fast Company reported on Dec. 22 that the bank has been registering hundreds of "abusive" website domains, including plays on the names of its senior executives and board members, to prevent them from being used as addresses of anti-BofA websites. This means the bank now owns several such tributes to its CEO, including and ...


Serial killers British Petroleum (BP) tried something similar following the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig that killed 11 BP employees and spewed millions of gallons of heavy crude into the Gulf of Mexico — it bought up all the potential Google search terms that might lead to people finding out about its culpability for the deaths and spill, in a Wizard of Oz-like attempt to tell the world to "pay no attention to the oil behind the curtain"; instead, it just revealed the company to be even more loathsome than people already thought, which is quite a feat in itself ...


UPDATE 2: Salon columnist Glenn Greenwald has chronicled a second possible avenue for BofA to try to undermine Wikileaks — hiring several law firms (and über-consultants Booz Allen) to run a "counter-espionage" campaign against the group, potentially including a COINTELPRO-type operation to discredit and disrupt the organization that involved proposals to engage in illegal activities. He notes that similar proposals had been made to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce as a means of responding to their critics.


Most significantly, however, and greatly to his credit, Greenwald then goes on to do what few others in the media have the integrity and guts to do — he connects the dots, looks at the bigger picture that emerges, and actually calls the underlying, systemic problem as he sees it:

But the real issue highlighted by this episode is just how lawless and unrestrained is the unified axis of government and corporate power. I've written many times about this issue — the full-scale merger between public and private spheres — because it's easily one of the most critical yet under-discussed political topics. ... There is very little separation between government power and corporate power. ... The revolving door between the highest levels of government and corporate offices rotates so fast and continuously that it has basically flown off its track and no longer provides even the minimal barrier it once did. It's not merely that corporate power is unrestrained; it's worse than that: Corporations actively exploit the power of the state to further entrench and enhance their power. [emphasis added]

The exemption from the rule of law has been fully transferred from the highest-level political elites to their counterparts in the private sector. "Law" is something used to restrain ordinary Americans and especially those who oppose this consortium of government and corporate power, but it manifestly does not apply to restrain these elites.


Keith Olbermann may have received deserved plaudits for "speaking truth to power" in his Murrow-esque editorials, but with little adornment, Greenwald managed in just two paragraphs to effectively indict the entire corporate-political establishment for endemic economic, political, and judicial corruption.