WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange told “60 Minutes” that he enjoys watching banks sweat as they await the release of documents about their internal conversations, plans and operations. Assange has threatened the action for several weeks. He has done nothing, which begs the question of whether he has anything to do.
WikiLeaks’ data on US foreign policy embarrassed the US government and some of its allies. None of the damage appears to have been permanent or terribly harmful.
For the WikiLeaks information on large banks to be effective, it would have to show direct evidence of fraud or other illegal actions. The US government has already taken two years to squeeze as much data as it can out of financial firms as part of the TARP program and subsequent reviews of balance sheets and earnings. The Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission turned up very little that was new. Government investigators have discovered the wild risks some banks took with their capital. The foreclosure habits of banks is out in the open. There is some concern that large financial companies still hold more toxic assets than they have directly disclosed. News about those would hardly be earth shattering.
The central players in the collapse of the credit system have either been fired or are the targets of legal actions. Among these, former Countrywide chief Angelo Mozilo is the most likely to face big fines or jail time. Skilled investigators and plaintiff’s lawyers have reviewed reams of data from banks in the hope of finding other people who made decisions which are actionable.
WikiLeaks may disclose information about banks that the public was not aware off. It is no likely that it has information that the government or some of the country’s best lawyers missed.
Douglas A. McIntyre