Whatever you think about WikiLeaks’ founder Julian Assange, he is not going down–nor will he be extradited -quietly. The megalomaniac Internet activist has caused plenty of consternation, and a spike in antacid sales, for his release of US State Department cables and other confidential information that has revealed much about wars and events around the world.
Now WikiLeaks has hinted that it has a bevy of documents that will shine light on one major bank’s shenanigans before and during the financial crisis of the past two years. Financial institutions have responded in kind; Visa, MasterCard, and PayPal recently stopped handing transactions intended for WikiLeaks. Now Bank of America, which also stopped authorizing payments to WikiLeaks, is one bank that many assume will have its dirty laundry exposed when WikiLeaks releases its next data dump. BofA’s executives have denied they are a target, but they are preparing themselves anyhow with an internet shopping spree.
Bank of America has snatched up abusive domain names this past week. URLs tossed in the bank’s shopping cart include just about any of its directors or senior executive names followed by “sucks” or “blows.” Dozens were purchased on December 17th, a curious flurry of activity that showed that the bank assumed WikiLeaks and Assange were about to wreak more havoc the week before Christmas. The buyer: MarkMonitor, a firm that offers its services as a leader in “enterprise brand protection.”
MarkMonitor and Bank of America’s moves are hardly a new tactic. When George W. Bush ran for President in 2000, Karl Rove and his crew purchased heaps of domain names, including bushsux.com, bushblows.com, and bushbites.com. Apparently PR and marketing gurus are most concerned about any URL that ties their clients’ names to sux, sucks, blows, or bites: one journalist’s research found that other nasty words that have a far sharper bite were not snapped up.
What appears lost on BofA’s executives is that the time spent buying snarky URLs on GoDaddy.com – or whatever registry site on which brianmoynihanblows.com and other monikers that would embarrass the bank’s CEO and other senior managers – is that they shine a veneer of guilt on one of the United States’ largest banks. At the very least, it shows that BofA’s execs have a thin skin; at the worst, they show that the bank wants to stifle information and debate. The URL purchases are waste of time and money anyway, because if it is indeed true that BofA was a bogeyman of the financial crisis, plenty of media venues exist that will blare this story to no end.
While corporate social responsibility often focuses on environmental, labor, and social issues, this chapter reveals the least exotic, but often most important, facet of CSR: transparency. When it comes to crisis management, banks can look to politics for the most important lesson that too many of us can never seem to learn: the cover up is often worse than the actual crime. And in the age of social media, nothing, NOTHING can get swept under the rug.