1. Amiram Sivan
What has happened to Sivan, until recently the chairman of Bank Hapoalim's management board? Since leaving his seat as alpha dog at Israel's biggest bank, he misses no opportunity to hurl out rash, even bizarre statements. It's almost as though his years as the most powerful man in Israel, during which he had to diplomatically curb his tongue, left him aching to free his opinions.
Three weeks ago at the Israel Democracy Institute's annual economics "Caesarea conference", he warned of the possible collapse of a major bank or chain. His words echoed throughout the marketplace, to the particular vexation of Bank Discount, which was flooded by terrified customers thinking Sivan was referring to it.
Yesterday Sivan struck again. "I don't understand how that much credit was granted," he pronounced. "I get the feeling that the previous management of Israel Continental Bank wanted to show assiduity, and therefore allowed credit to be extended to the Peled-Givony group. Otherwise I can't understand it," he told
Well said. From the first days of the Peled-Givony group, analysts were concerned about the way it was snapping up companies, and with its undercover habits. Even then, there was gawping at the financing the group managed to collect more than half a billion in loans from banks. The writeoffs the banks face today on the Peled-Givony group were written on the wall long ago.
The complaints should be routed to the then managers of Continental Bank, the ones Sivan thinks may have been trying to demonstrate how hard they work.
But wait a second the person who chaired Continental Bank then and now is Amiram Sivan. Could Sivan not have been aware that Continental lent the Peled-Givony group almost NIS 100 million? If he didn't, how is it that the bank could lend an amount like that without its chairman's nod? Hmm? Ask Sivan.
2. MK Michael Kleiner
The moment MKs started tinkering with the tax reform compiled by the Rabinovitch committee, it was clear that no good would come of it. This morning
demonstrated the process of how Israel's parliamentarians amend the law. An ultra-Orthodox businessman from Kiryat Malachi, one Mayer Zeiler, huffed and puffed and managed to persuade some MKs to insert a clause into the law, a clause specially tailored to exempt him from tax on his income from abroad.
One of the MKs who helped Zeiler's cause was Michael Kleiner, of the Likud party. Explaining his role in the affair, he said, "So what if I helped a Jew? I got no recompense for it." Later he told TheMarker that he had been misquoted, but stood firm by his deed.
So what. So what if he forced the rest of Israel to pay for the tax break for Zeiler. Somebody has to make up the shortfall left by the hole Zeiler will leave in the state's tax revenues. Why is that of lesser importance than the tremendous benefit to Zeiler?
While about it, we must ask, has Kleiner helped other Jews using the same logic? And if he did, did his assistance to rich Jews also come at the expense of poorer people who don't have the leisure to spend the week at the Knesset lobbying for a special law unto themselves?
And how did Kleiner's selfless actions help the dozens of Jews and maybe non-Jews too, but he doesn't care about them, apparently who work at Zeiler's textile plant in Kiryat Malachi?
3. Shlomo Piotrkowsky
The persistent losses and increase in liquidity requirements caused several banks to stop being banks they can barely extend any credit, being all but tapped out. The first was Bank Discount, but then came the turn of the other medium-sized banks.
Which led First International Bank's chairman, Shlomo Piotrkowsky, to a thought: that the government extend credit from its own sources to anybody willing to buy companies from the state. Government companies, that is, that the state wants to privatize.
The timing is perfect: the government is slashing its budget by billions while scrabbling about to free up sources for the business sector, in order to restore economic growth.
Piotrkowsky wasn't the first to think of the idea people involved in the privatization pf Bezeq, the national phone company, got there first. But he's the first major banker to repeat it. He is also the man who spearheaded the aggressive credit campaign that got his bank into so much trouble.
Piotrkowsky has not invented the wheel. When the business sector stumbles into major losses, instead of the bank financing the losses from its own pocket, Piotrkowsky is simply suggesting that the taxpayer foot the bill.
Let the state become the banker, he's saying, a task for which the state has no talent at all. Let the state bear the risk of companies defaulting on their loans, the very risk that Piotrkowsky led FIBI to undertake.