Forgive me if I stray slightly, but I could not help thinking about how ironic it would be if someone leaked information as to the whereabouts of Wikileaks founder and "fearless leader" Julian Assange -- who is in hiding!
It would be even more ironic if a CIA operative who had his cover blown by Wikileaks decides what goes around comes around. Let's face it, in its own way Wikileaks has become a rogue nation, so why wouldn't the CIA get involved?
In the mean time, this has probably helped world markets as it has overtaken everything else as the big story of the past 48 hours. In a bizarre way, Assange may have achieved one of his goals by bringing the world closer together, sort of.
Wikileaks has made it known it intends to release damaging (perhaps just inflammatory) information about a major American bank. Pundits have speculated that the bank in question is Bank of America (BAC). So what if they have the goods on BAC? The public already is so cynical about the banks I highly doubt anything would shock us. Besides, it could just as easily be Goldman Sachs (GS) or JPMorgan Chase (JPM).
If it were Goldman or Chase, it would not be a shock. If it were Chase and the smart guys did something questionable, it would be even a bigger story. However, given how Goldman had its ex-chairman Henry "Hank" Paulson running the Treasury, would that not be the most likely and perhaps the most damaging?
In any event, what does Bank of America have to fear? I would say not much. Its stock has already been ravaged, hitting a new 52-week low of $10.91 Tuesday. We already know some sort of shenanigans went down between the Feds and the bank in the acquisition of Merrill Lynch, as well as Ex-Merrill CEO John Thain who now holds the top spot at CIT Group (CIT).
It also would be no shocker if some tasty tidbit was thrust upon us about how and why Bank of America decided to make the fateful acquisition of Countrywide Financial. Perhaps a story about gold-leafed shower curtains or wife swapping might get the public unraveled? That would not do it either. Even engaging the services of some engaging young lady (or even gentlemen) would not jolt us. Don't get me wrong. I know the story will be titillating no matter the content. It's just that I would find it hard to fathom how anything could make us more suspicious, more upset or more disappointed in leadership than we are now.
The real story here about Bank of America is that it might be grossly undervalued, as the pendulum always overshoots the mark. The stock is now trading below book value at 0.62. and has a cut rate price-to-sales value of 0.81. That's cheap.
Oh yeah, and about Mr. Assange: I fear the worst for him simply because he has decided to take on some of the most powerful people on earth and they do not like it. Furthermore, Wikileaks has let it be known that it intends to eventually reveal some news gems about Russia and China (if it can) and they will probably respond even less enthusiastically than the folks in Washington and the Middle East.
Make some room in your cave Osama.
Sheldon Liber is the CEO of a small private investment company and the principal for design and research at an architecture & planning firm. He writes the columns Chasing Value™ and Serious Money. Disclosure: He owns shares and/or options in BAC.