Anonymous, the WikiLeaks-loving online 'hacktivist' collective, has outed a cache of e-mails that it claims demonstrate criminal wrongdoing by US financial giant Bank of America.
The leak contains messages sent between staff at the bank's subsidiary, Balboa Insurance, detailing plans to delete sensitive documents.
The communications don't explain why the files were being removed - or if the deletion was actually carried out - but Twitter user @OperationLeakS, claiming to be a member of Anonymous, says the e-mails form the first part of a series of planned leaks from a former BoA employee, which show that the bank engaged in improper mortgage foreclosure practices
A spokesman for Bank of America today said: "We are confident that his extravagant assertions are untrue."
The bank has been the rumoured subject of a leak for months, after WikiLeaks' founder Julian Assange claimed he had in his possession of a hard disk from a senior Bank of America executive. An article in the New York Times claiming that BoA had already embarked on a wide-ranging damage limitation exercise, fuelled speculation that the bank would be the target of a leak.
Assange later told an interviewer for US business magazine Forbes that he planned to publish documents early in 2011 that could "bring down" a well-known financial institution - although a recent report by news agency Reuters claims that insiders suggest the promised bombshell might be more of a damp squib.
Anonymous's leaked emails were posted online at http://bankofamericasuck.com. At the time of writing, the website is unavailable, having been inundated with requests.
The documents have now appeared on a number of mirror sites and via peer-to-peer networks - although some of the torrents, including one hosted on the Pirate Bay, have since been removed.
As yet, it is unclear if the documents leaked by Anonymous originated from WikiLeaks.
Anonymous has a history of action against financial institutions, having launched Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks on Visa, MasterCard and PayPal after the companies withdrew their services from WikiLeaks. The group launched a further attack that brought down the servers of Swiss bank PostFinance after it froze the personal assets of Julian Assange.