Bottom Shekel / Cleaning up the Israel Securities Authority
The number of ideas tossed about in recent months to clean up and stabilize the capital market is a true embarrassment of riches. But possibly the most significant drive of all is the brainchild of the Israel Securities Authority, led by Zohar Goshen: to clean up the authority itself.
Literally, that is. The Securities Authority recently published a tender for the "provision of cleaning and [pest] extermination services at the offices of the Israel Securities Authority in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv."
Naturally, the government body followed all the rules and regulations diligently in its tender. But there were a few things it might as well have written beyond specifying the type of soap, amount of paper towels and quality of toilet paper.
The Securities Authority could have demanded the winning contractor clean up the mountain of trash squatting in its offices from the boom in public offerings. There are hundreds and hundreds of prospectuses lying around, each a hefty book with hundreds and hundreds of pages. Many were submitted by companies that quickly proved insolvent, unable to repay their bondholders. All the prospectuses are signed by the companies' lawyers, auditors - among the leading lights of their professions in Israel - and by the Securities Authority.
Moreover, the winning contractor could have been asked to track down the many complaints submitted to the Securities Authority about transgressions of the Securities Law - which are probably lying in a filing cabinet in the basement, anyway - shred them and bury the pieces. Nothing much has come of them anyway.
Also, the cleaners might as well have been asked to sweep up and toss out all the suggestions that former Securities Authority chairman Moshe Tery made about reforming boards, credit rating agencies and the like.
The Securities Authority presumably doesn't want nervy cleaners who'll make snide comments about how the number of cases the Securities Authority has investigated could be counted on one hand, or less.
The Securities Authority might as well have written that the winning contractor has to sweep the following issues under the rug:
* The fact that trading on insider information isn't rare.
* The fact that investment managers handled other people's money, despite having no license.
* The fact that investment managers monkeyed with the returns on funds by moving securities from one fund to another in order to artificially boost prices in the last hour of the last day each month, to sweeten their return rates.
* The fact that Israel is riddled with Ponzi schemes, yet nobody does anything about it.
And finally, if the winning contractor proves his mettle, he'll get a plum - cleaning out of the offices of Yadin Antebi, the commissioner of capital markets, savings and insurance. He'll get to sweep out all those inspections Antebi carried out month after month that yielded no real sanctions.