Wednesday 1 December 2010

Will Wikileaks break a US bank?

Which American bank is going to be blown apart by promised revelations from Wikileaks?

Britain's Daily Mail newspaper today reported US speculation that it might be Citigroup, but that doesn't appear in the online edition so maybe it was just a wild guess. Tyler Durden hears that the hard drive of a Bank of America executive casts a shadow over Merrill Lynch and/or Countrywide.

Slightly creepy though Julian Assange may be, it seems he's doing what our journalists over here used to do, before they started to see themselves as part of the New Aristocracy. When the horse-puckey hits the turbo, maybe we could see another Enron-type scandal complete with jailings and business foldups.

But I think there will be other repercussions. One will be, presumably, a drive to "clean up the act" - more regulations to try to bring the rogues under control.

Another will be how discussions are (or aren't) recorded in future. I'm sure that thanks to Assange's latest stunt, many diplomats will now be encoding their gossip prior to transmission.

But the most significant will be how observation will be evaded and rules circumvented.
This has already happened in politics: it's one of the curious features of Tony Blair's decade-long "sofa government" that decisions were often made without civil servants present to take minutes: no name, no pack drill, as they used to say in the Army.
We can expect the same in commercial circles. Again, some smart guys have been doing this all along: Jordan Belfort's book "The Wolf of Wall Street" describes how, in order to carry on share-ramping without the inconvenience of explaining their office telephone transcripts to SEC investigators, his boys would simply tell the client they'd call back, then go out and fire up their personal cellphones for an intimate, no-repercussions sales spiel.
The Sicilian Mafia showed them all the way. Bernardo Provenzano ran the Outfit from a shack, avoiding all electronic communication and typing little notes ("pizzini") on his Olivetti instead.
It's kind of a Darwinian co-evolution of predator and prey. We can expect continued crookery, with heightened secrecy. And a surge in sales of two-colour typewriter ribbons.
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