Info-terrorist and Wikileaks founder Julian Assange appears to be enjoying special status these days as one of the most hunted men in the world after this week unleashing more than 250,000 classified U.S. embassy cables into cyberspace and making many heads of state and diplomats very uncomfortable. Perhaps the only thing worse than your country being part of the diplomatic chatter was not being part of that chatter, because that would only mean that you don’t rate high enough in the world view to be talked about.
Soon after Wikileaks’ launch of sensitive cables hit the mainstream media, reactions ranged from a call for the “execution” of the internal spy who leaked the materials (that would be former GOP candidate and governor Mike Huckabee) to President Obama’s labeling of the act as an attack on the United States. None of those reactions appear to have discouraged Assange, who is reporting high up on Interpol’s list of interesting people they would like to find and then mysteriously lose.
Into this quagmire stepped the Bank of America, which has reason to believe the rumor that one of the leading banks in America is about to get whacked by Wikileaks. The stock market, which has had more of a hair trigger lately than any time since the Great Depression, wasn’t so keen on that rumor and BoA stock ran close to the shoals on Tuesday before bouncing back on Wednesday.
Part of BoA’s recovery in the stock market was in no small part due to the sudden visibility of Anne Finucane, president of global strategy at BoA who neither ruled in – nor out – that BoA might well be the target of Assange’s next nasty-gram. “We have had no contact from anybody about this… I don’t know that it is us,” said Finucane.
This is tricky territory for any publicly-traded company, particularly when it comes to making a high-level decision about whether talking publicly about something that hasn’t happened is often perceived in the boardroom as tantamount making it happen. Finucane is no stranger to the “fire and ice” conundrum and is surrounded by very talented people like Jim Mahoney. Whether the bank being pilloried by Wikileaks is Bank of America or not, the point is that the market believed it was and that belief was enough to send its stock south on Tuesday. By Wednesday, Finucane was back on her horse, in effect telling the market ‘maybe it is us, but it doesn’t matter because we aren’t running from it and we aren’t running from them.’
The lesson here is that sometimes you have to stand and fight, even if the enemy is a shadowy, self-proclaimed free speech prophet being lionized by the media.