What might Wikileaks expose about Bank of America? A former employee takes a stab at it below.
Now bear in mind that the employee was fired, and may have an axe to grind, but it’s all coming out in a new book…
Hal Blackwell was working as a financial advisor at Merrill Lynch in South Carolina as the banking world began to crumble in 2008, and the rest of the economy soon followed.
With a front row seat to a banking behemoth attempting to deal with exposure to billions of dollars of toxic assets, Blackwell tells us that he was not surprised to hear that the bank that’s probably the target of the Wikileaks Big Bank dump scheduled to drop early in 2011, is Bank of America.
Unlike many who have cited the bank itself, in particular the robo-signing scandal, Blackwell is putting his money on the documents exposing some ugly truths about Merrill Lynch during the crisis.
He told us why he agrees with speculation that the Wikileaks drop will be about Bank of America. His reasons are below.
(Obviously, this is Blackwell’s opinion only, based on experience at the bank. We reached out to the bank for comment, but at this time have not received a response.)
1. Julian Assange said the dump: “could take down a bank or two.“ Blackwell says that the merged Bank of America – Merrill Lynch bank fits this description perfectly. They are one or two banks, depending on how you look at it, and if BofA goes down, so does Merrill.
2. Blackwell alleges that management was without a doubt aware in 2008 that the bank had a huge liquidity problem – and was telling its clients and investors otherwise. Internally, Blackwell told us, the bank continued to tell employees, “the worst is over but there may be other shoes to drop.” He alleges that management refused to elaborate on what those “shoes” were.
Blackwell believes that there is a possibility Wikileaks documents could expose a gap between how much the bank knew, and how long it waited to tell those who had money invested in the bank. It could also reveal which investors the bank feared might have run if they’d been aware of the state of the balance sheet, he says.
3. Blackwell alleges that management was telling its advisors to do anything to make sure investors kept their money in equities and annuitized investments. To make sure Merrill continued to reap the periodic payments from those accounts, even though, the best thing for their clients would have been to move their money into cash positions, Merrill did whatever it took, he says. Blackwell was chastised for moving his client’s away from equities and into cash, he says.
Blackwell was fired by Merrill Lynch in 2009. The bank claims he had violated their policies regarding contact with governmental entities, outside business entities, conflicts of interest and outside speaking engagements. FINRA exonerated him this year.
Blackwell believes Merrill fired him because he repeatedly complained to his supervisors about firm practices that, he says, were detrimental to the best interests of his clients.
In a letter to FINRA in November 2009, after he was fired, he wrote:
Contrary to the advice the firm wanted given, as the market tumbled I moved my clients into stronger cash positions and out of equities. While my compensation certainly suffered, so did that of the firm (at least that portion generated by my accounts), and for this I was severely criticised despite my clients happily surviving the 2009 market crash.
Obviously we won’t know which bank Julian Assange has serious dirt on until he releases the documents in 2011 – but the reasons why Blackwell’s wagering on a Merrill Lynch connection would certainly have the potential to damage BofA if any internal documents proving his points were released.
So it’s no surprise that BofA is scared. They have allegedly set up a swat team to combat Wikileaks in case it is, as suspected, the target of the next leak, according to Charlie Gasparino.
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