Bank of America wonders about WikiLeaks' planned 'megaleak'

The Charlotte ObserverDecember 22, 2010 

Heading into the new year, a big question looms for Bank of America: What's next in the WikiLeaks saga?

Julian Assange, the anti-secrecy organization's founder, has said he is preparing a "megaleak" about a large bank, leading to speculation the Charlotte bank is the target. On Monday, he told the Times of London that he had enough information to make the bosses of a major bank resign.

Meanwhile, Bank of America has cut off payments intended for WikiLeaks, spurring the group to tell customers to stop doing business with the bank. Other financial institutions that have foiled payments have faced cyberspace attacks from WikiLeaks supporters, but so far the bank doesn't appear to be suffering ill effects.

Analysts say it's possible WikiLeaks could stir up new trouble for the nation's biggest bank, perhaps exposing more problems in the mortgage arena or reviving questions about its Merrill Lynch acquisition. It's also possible the revelations cause little harm or that WikiLeaks bypasses the bank altogether.

Bert Ely, a Virginia-based banking consultant, said he suspects all major financial institutions are girding for the group's next move.

"We don't know it's Bank of America," he said. "It could be one of a number of banks."

In recent months, WikiLeaks has gained notoriety for exposing Pentagon and State Department secrets and for Assange's fight against sexual assault accusations in Sweden. In November, he told Forbes magazine that his group planned a bank leak in early 2011. That drew attention to a 2009 article in which Assange said WikiLeaks had obtained a Bank of America executive's hard drive.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated in the above paragraph that Assange was battling "sexual assault charges." Assange has not been charged in Sweden.

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