Love it or hate it, the now notorious WikiLeaks whistleblower Web site has caused quite a stir. The ball got rolling with a ''war diary'' of Afghanistan-related logs and that was followed by similar fare on Iraq, but nothing could compare to ''Cablegate'' in which WikiLeaks graced the world with more than 251,000 U.S. Embassy cables from all over the world.
For the most part, the cables include not-so-nice comments from U.S. ambassadors about the leaders and high-ranking officials of other countries. Of course the State Department was not to keen on all these missives being made readily available to the general public and the comments contained in the cables are not going to help the U.S. win any global popularity contests.
Investors may also want to pay some attention to WikiLeaks. Notice that I stop short of calling the Web site ''must read'' material. Even with WikiLeaks' assertion that it is preparing a massive data dump on a ''major'' U.S. bank (probably Bank of America), the Web site's most recent track record with cables with corporate angles shows WikiLeaks is far from a market mover.
Some dirt about commodities companies has been spotted in WikiLeaks cables. Not surprising given that big oil and mining companies operate all over the world, often times in unsavory locales. Royal Dutch Shell, Europe's largest oil company, was the first commodities producer to be subject of some WikiLeaks news.
There is a cable, which can be viewed (HERE), that is dated October 2009. In quick summary, the cable implies that Shell executive Ann Pickard, who was then high up in the company's Nigerian operations, said that Shell had spies in all the relevant Nigeria agencies that impacted her employer's business in the African country. That is an assertion Shell has since denied.
Basically, Shell (RDS-A) was worried the Nigerians were sharing Shell data with the Chinese and Russians and while this all has a James Bond feel to it, if you happen to be long Shell, would you not want the company's executives to take the necessary steps to protect its interests, which are your interests as a shareholder, in a volatile country? When the WikiLeaks/Shell news broke last Friday, Shell shares finished the day higher. Strike one for WikiLeaks and its foray into the world of corporate espionage.
Next up was BHP Billiton, the world's largest mining company. WikiLeaks reportedly has some cables that essentially say BHP did all it could to subvert rival Rio Tinto's (RIO) joint venture with Aluminum Corp. of China (ACH). BHP played the political card and was able to draw sympathy from U.S. officials, essentially dooming the Rio/Chinalco venture. Tell the world something it does not already know. Who really thought BHP (BHP) would stand by and allow the Rio/Chinalco venture to materialize? All three stocks barely moved today. Strike two.
It will be interesting to see what company is next to be thrown into the WikiLeaks fire, but it is pretty clear these cables really do not mean much in the ultimate court: The financial markets.