Months after WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange promised to post documents from a major financial institution, a member of Anonymous released e-mails allegedly related to Bank of America's foreclosure practices.
The e-mails were provided by a former Bank of America employee who claimed the bank withheld critical information from regulators and sensitive data was deleted. A Twitter account called Anonymous@OperationLeakS announced the release of the e-mail messages on the site, bankofamericasucks.com, shortly after midnight Eastern time on March 14.
An Anonymous representative, who had not read the messages but had been briefed on the contents, told Reuters the e-mails addressed "whether Bank of America has improperly foreclosed on homes."
The e-mails are allegedly exchanges between employees at Balboa Insurance, a unit Bank of America acquired as part of its Countrywide Financial acquisition in 2008. Balboa dealt with "lender-placed insurance," or insurance policies taken out by lenders paid for by the mortgage holder. Bank of America is in the process of finalizing the $700 million sale of Balboa to Australian insurer QBE Insurance Group.
Some of the e-mails hint at an organized effort to tamper with loan numbers and audit trails, such as a conversation between two Balboa employees regarding an "unusual" request to remove document tracking numbers from the system so that documents could no longer be correlated to specific loans, according to the BBC and New York Times, who examined the messages.
The approval was given to remove loan numbers from documents, the New York Times reported.
Some of the loan file numbers were mismatched or missing, prompting an employee to wonder about creating "huge red flags" for auditors over a change in record keeping. The anomalies prompted the employee to comment that it "just doesn't seem right to me," according to screenshots of the e-mails available on the Huffington Post.
One of the messages claimed Balboa knowingly hid foreclosure information from federal auditors, referring to the federal investigations that arose after consumer groups accused Bank of America and other mortgage services of foreclosing on homes without proper documentation.
The e-mails have not been independently verified, and a Bank of America spokesman told Reuters that these "clerical and administrative" documents had been stolen by a former Balboa employee and were not tied to foreclosures. "We are confident that his extravagant assertions are untrue," the spokesman said.
OperationLeakS claimed on Twitter that this was just "part 1 of the Emails." In an ironic twist, bankofamericasucks.com was available sporadically throughout the day as high traffic volumes overwhelmed and crashed the server. By midday, there were a number of mirrors up for the e-mails in the .RAR archive format, including one at AnonLeaks.ch.
The bulk of the e-mails appear to be between OperationLeakS and the clearly disgruntled Balboa employee, and it was difficult to tell if there was anything "truly damning in the e-mails," according to Halah Touryalai of Forbes. Even so, considering recent disclosures about robo-signing practices at Bank of America and other foreclosure problems, regulators are likely to be poring over the allegations in these e-mails carefully.
Recent high-profile data breaches have companies increasingly concerned about trusted employees taking sensitive information when they leave the company or leaking information to third parties without authorization. The fixes range from elaborate data leak protection software to encrypting content to implementing a zero-trust environment with rigid security controls.
At this time, it is unclear whether these files are the same ones that Assange previously referred to, although a comment from this ex-employee makes it seem like two different leaks. It is also unknown whether WikiLeaks still planned its own release.
"If anyone can get me a copy of the image of the hard drive that Julian Assange reportedly has from the BofA executive ... I could find all the dirt on that hard drive within a week," the ex-employee wrote, according to the Huffington Post.