*BofA’s Finucane say bank has no evidence of data leak
*Says many of banks internal documents already reviewed
By Svea Herbst-Bayliss
BOSTON, Dec 1 (Reuters) - Bank of America (BAC.N) has no evidence that it is the target of alleged plans by website WikiLeaks to disclose confidential data and that thousands of the bank’s internal documents have already been scoured by lawmakers and regulators, a top executive said on Wednesday.
“We don’t know that it is us and we have had no contact with (WikiLeaks),” Anne Finucane, the bank’s global strategy and marketing officer said a day after the bank’s share price dropped 3 percent amid concerns that potentially damaging documents would be released soon by the website.
“After dealing with the U.S. diplomatic corps, he is now taking on a U.S. bank,” Finucane said of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. Finucane is Bank of America’s most senior executive to publicly speak about the topic since it caught investors’ attention earlier this week.
While the potential leak fascinated Wall Street on Tuesday, Finucane downplayed the likelihood that there might be fresh damaging news because the bank has been so closely scrutinized in the wake of the financial crisis.
“There is probably not a company that has had more leaks than us,” Finucane said, adding “we have been out there 24/7.”
Assange told Forbes magazine that he was planning to release documents early next year that would point to “unethical practices” at a major U.S. bank.
While he did not name the institution, speculation mounted that it may be Bank of America, the biggest U.S. bank as measured by assets. A year ago, Assange said in a separate interview that his group had obtained five gigabytes of data from a Bank of America executive’s hard drive.
Jittery investors worried that the potentially damaging documents could lead to further investigations just as the bank is working to rebuild its reputation after taking a beating during the crisis.
The bank’s public relations team issued a statement on Tuesday saying that the bank had no evidence to support Assange’s assertions.
Early on Wednesday, the bank’s share price rebounded 1.4 percent to $11.10 on the New York Stock Exchange.
Finucane told an audience at the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce that the Bank of America has drawn the spotlight for years since it bought ailing companies Merrill Lynch & Co and Countrywide Financial.
Regulators at the New York Attorney General’s office, regulators at the Securities and Exchange Commission and lawmakers have all reviewed reams of documents from Bank of America, she said.
“We have learned how to deal with it,” she said about the negative attention the bank has had.
Suits charging that Bank of America misled investors about losses at Merrill Lynch and that it misled investors about bonuses that would be paid to Merrill Lynch executives were filed previously.
More generally, Finucane said that in light of instant communications, there are few things that can kept secret for long. “It will all be out there eventually,” she said, warning the audience “so watch what you do.” (Reporting by Svea Herbst-Bayliss; Editing by Derek Caney)