After a big buildup, the hacker group Anonymous released its first batch of whistleblower emails regarding Bank of America. The result was ... confusion. Maybe they're real, maybe not. (We assume they are.) Maybe they're a letdown. Maybe not. Here's what we know and what we don't know so far.
Let's start with what we don't know:
We don't know if these emails are authentic, although Adrian Chen at Gawker has sources within Anonymous and he says they are.
We don't know if crimes were committed. There's widespread skepticism that these emails provide evidence of that, which is the position that Business Insider took. Yves Smith, on the other hand, said things look "ugly" and described ways in which this could be suggestive of criminal behavior. As David Dayen says, "Just because something has a lot of anecdotal evidence behind it doesn’t necessarily mean the specific case is true. But the forced-place insurance scam has been part of other servicer lawsuits, so it definitely exists."
We don't know if there are more leaks to come, but Anonymous says there are and so that seems likely.
We don't know if Julian Assange and Wikileaks have made plans to release the information they say they have on Bank of America.
Here's what we do know:
We know that this is already a textbook case of how not to roll out supposedly damning evidence against a powerful corporation: a big build-up followed by ambiguous information that's confusingly presented. (The frequent service interruptions didn't help, either.)
We know that the leaker didn't work at Bank of America itself, but at a subsidiary named Balboa Insurance that providesmortgage protection insurance. That lends itself to potential conflicts of interest - and potentially to some very nasty business.
We know that servicers have behaved very badly, leading to the force-placed insurance scandal that Felix Salmon described so well last November. Some of the illegal and immoral shenanigans include the backdating of insurance policies ( which means collecting premiums even though they know nothing bad happened), and charging far more for the policies than they're actually worth. (The primary victims of force-placed insurance are investors, although homeowners can also be victims.)
We know that the personality of the anonymous leaker is getting on a lot of people's nerves. Business Insider called him (his writing reads like a "him," although we don't know) "whiny," Yves Smith griped about his writing style, spelling, and inaccuracies, and I'm certainly finding him hard to decipher. It's like listening to some drunk guy at a bar trying to tell you something about how the art of great quarterbacking died at the same time that rock and roll became corporate, but then he's also going on tangents about hair dye, short chicks, and space aliens. Maybe he's got a point, but you sure wish he'd get to it.
To their credit, however, we also know that Anonymous has a subtle sense of humor. Their leak site is called "bankofamericasuck.com" - no "s" at the end of "sucks" - which is a jab at bank management for buying up what they imagined were all the possible URLs that could be used against the bank, including URLs that included the names of even minor bank officials.
And we know that when it comes to Bank of America, we shouldn't put anything past them. Here's what else we know about BofA:
We know that Bank of America's been a pretty egregious violator of the HAMP program's legal requirements.
We know that CEO Brian Moynihan is indefensibly arrogant, given his bank's substandard performance in so many critical areas, and that he's needlessly abrasive. He was especially sarcastic about the foreclosure crisis when he said this about fraudulent paperwork: "We'll go back and check over our homework one more time."
We know that Bank of America received nearly one trillion dollars in assistance from the US taxpayer.
And we know that Bank of America has drawn headlines like these:
- "Bank of America Ends Year With Flurry of Lawsuits"
- "Arizona Wants Bank of America Held in Contempt"
- "Nevada, Arizona sue Bank of America over failed mortgage aid"
- "Allstate Sues Bank Of America For Selling 'Toxic' MBS"
- "Bank of America Hit With Missouri Class Action Over Loan Modifications"
We also know that we haven't heard the whole Bank of America story yet. But we'd like to. We really would.
This post was produced as part of the Curbing Wall Street project.