Utilitarian and Deontological Implications of the Bank of America and Wikileaks Scandal

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Bank of America, one of the top financial institutions in the United States of America and Wikileaks, described by many as the probably the biggest whistleblower in recent history are in for a colossal battle. Bank of America is on the defensive end as to whether one of its executives lost a hard drive containing information that if and when released could cause the bank to crumble to the ground. On the other hand, Wikileaks allegedly has this hard drive in its possession and has already issued a statement that it will release the information earlier this year. This battle has the world on the edge of its seat waiting on who will be triumphant but for purposes of this paper, this is a battle of ethics. A brief background is hereby provided.

The statement of Julian Assange, Director of Wikileaks, in an interview last year that he is in possession of a bank executive’s hard drive containing information that could lead to the downfall of one of the top banks in America triggered a wide spread suspicion within the financial circles that Bank of America was the target of this intended release by Wikileaks. This came about when Assange mentioned in a 2009 interview that the hard drive in question is that of a Bank of America executive. Due to its shares falling after the Assange interview, Bank of America moved to conduct an internal investigation. No justifiable proof of the existence of this hard drive was found during this inquiry. Bank of America has thereafter issued a pronouncement to stop processing any transactions or payments intended for Wikileaks due to the organization’s possible illegal activities.

This writing will focus mainly on whether or not Bank of America should refuse to process payments and do business with Wikileaks. The ethical issues involved will also be discussed as well as Bank of America’s exercise of a legal right. Finally, on a minor note, and in the interest of fair debate, the question of whether or not Wikileaks should release the contents of the hard drive, assuming it has it its possession will also be answered. The principles of Utilitarianism and Deontology will be the primary tools to be employed to argue and discuss the points previously stated. DISCUSSION

This paper’s stand as to whether or not Bank of America should refuse to process payments and do business with Wikileaks is a resounding NO. John Stuart Mill said, “the creed which accepts as the foundation of morals, Utility, or the Greatest Happiness Principle, holds that actions are right in proportion as they tend to promote happiness, wrong as they tend to produce the reverse of happiness. By happiness is intended pleasure, and the absence of pain; by unhappiness, pain, and the privation of pleasure.” The principle of utilitarianism based on this statement seeks that which will cause happiness or pleasure. Applying this principle to the subject at hand, did this act of Bank of America cause any happiness? To who? To what end? Let’s assume for a moment that Wikileaks is in possession of the hard drive in question, will this stop Wikileaks from publishing the information contained in the hard drive if it so decides? Certainly not. Wikileaks’ donation page on its official website enumerates several methods of making donations or payments to Wikileaks without going through Bank of America such as bank transfers, bit coin and donations via postal mail. At best, the bank may have caused more of an inconvenience to individuals and entities making donations or payments to Wikileaks but other than that there is no major damage done to its operations. This action from Bank of America resulted in minimal benefit to the corporation and its customers if none at all. Wikileaks will still have control of the hard drive in question, if it does exists, and for this same reason it certainly did not lessen the fears of its customers and its executives. Furthermore, the widely accepted utilitarian concept...
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