But dirt on a major U.S. bank isn't the only sensitive information from the private sector that Assange says he has the goods on. Assange confirmed WikiLeaks has secrets relating to the financial industry (its most significant data set); the energy industry, including BP; and the pharmaceutical industry.
Assange, however, tells Greenberg that his motivation for releasing this private-sector information isn't knee-jerk anti-capitalism. Instead, he says he's a strong proponent of free markets and that all he's doing is providing the information necessary for markets to function efficiently. The full exchange is worthy of a read.
Forbes: Would you call yourself a free market proponent?
Assange: Absolutely. I have mixed attitudes towards capitalism, but I love markets. Having lived and worked in many countries, I can see the tremendous vibrancy in, say, the Malaysian telecom sector compared to U.S. sector. In the U.S. everything is vertically integrated and sewn up, so you don’t have a free market. In Malaysia, you have a broad spectrum of players, and you can see the benefits for all as a result.
Forbes: How do your leaks fit into that?
Assange: To put it simply, in order for there to be a market, there has to be information. A perfect market requires perfect information.
There’s the famous lemon example in the used car market. It’s hard for buyers to tell lemons from good cars, and sellers can’t get a good price, even when they have a good car.
By making it easier to see where the problems are inside of companies, we identify the lemons. That means there’s a better market for good companies. For a market to be free, people have to know who they’re dealing with.
In the grand scheme of things, Assange argues, leaks are good for the market because it rewards ethical companies that do the right thing and treat their employees well.
This, he says, is the goal of WikiLeaks.
"It just means that it’s easier for honest CEOs to run an honest business, if the dishonest businesses are more effected negatively by leaks than honest businesses," Assange tells Greenberg. "That’s the whole idea. In the struggle between open and honest companies and dishonest and closed companies, we’re creating a tremendous reputational tax on the unethical companies."
♦ Photo by espenmoe/Flickr