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Which U.S. Bank Will Wikileaks Expose?

Posted by Larry Doyle on November 30, 2010 6:28 AM |

Truth, transparency, and integrity.

If I had a nickel for each and every time I wrote those prized virtues here at Sense on Cents, I would have a lot of nickels. I not only espouse these principles in my writing. I strongly believe that the pursuit of these virtues is the foundation for real economic success, if not life itself.

While each of these principles may be defined differently depending on one’s perspective, in terms of transparency, most people would be able to say, “Well, I’d know it if I saw it.” The world is now beginning to see a lot more transparency and accompanying material. How so? Wikileaks. Who is Wikileaks and what are they getting ready to release?

WikiLeaks is a not-for-profit media organisation. Our goal is to bring important news and information to the public. We provide an innovative, secure and anonymous way for sources to leak information to our journalists (our electronic drop box). One of our most important activities is to publish original source material alongside our news stories so readers and historians alike can see evidence of the truth. We are a young organisation that has grown very quickly, relying on a network of dedicated volunteers around the globe. Since 2007, when the organisation was officially launched, WikiLeaks has worked to report on and publish important information. We also develop and adapt technologies to support these activities.

Is it any surprise that in a world so interconnected that an organization such as Wikileaks has developed? No, certainly not. I shudder to think that people, including those in our military, may be harmed by the release of truly sensitive information that rises to the level of national security. That type of transparency we do not need. But what about transparency that might change corrupt corporate behaviors? Wouldn’t that be beneficial? Well, get ready because in Forbes’ An Interview With Wikileaks’ Julian Assange, we learn the following:

These megaleaks, as you call them that, we haven’t seen any of those from the private sector.
No, not at the same scale 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.

WOW! Might it be Citigroup? JP Morgan Chase? Bank of America? Wells Fargo? Goldman Sachs? Could it be a bank outside that group?

Think the executives within these organizations are running some fire drills right now?

I am not so naive to think that corporate practices along the lines of what may be released by Wikileaks have not gone on for a long time. That said, if the media, financial regulators, and government officials had all collectively performed their duties to the level expected by the public, Wikileaks may never have developed.

Comments, color, constructive criticism always encouraged and appreciated.

Larry Doyle

I want to thank the regular reader of Sense on Cents who brought this story to my attention.

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I have no affiliation or business interest with any entity referenced in this commentary. As President of Greenwich Investment Management, an SEC regulated privately held registered investment adviser, I am merely a proponent of real transparency within our markets so that investor confidence and investor protection can be achieved.

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