Moshe Gafni, on Bankers' Pay: 'An Entire Neighborhood Could Live Off Eli Yones' Salary'

Are bank executives earning a fortune on their customers' backs? Knesset Finance Committee chairman Moshe Gafni (United Torah Judaism) thinks the answer is yes.

"The CEO of Bank Mizrahi gets NIS 1.5 million a month; where does he live?"

The Knesset member demanded during a committee discussion on bank fees yesterday. "I don't begrudge people their salaries, but when an entire neighborhood can live off the salary of one man, and when a cleaning worker in Eli Yones' bank is receiving minimum wage, that widens the gaps in Israeli society."

A glance at the country's top wage earners exposes the country's social gaps better than anything, he added.

"Bank Mizrahi is an example," the UTJ legislator said. "We're destroying our society with our own hands."

At the beginning of the discussion, Gafni asked whether a Mizrahi representative was present. When it turned out that one was not, he got angry.

"I want to know whether there's a connection between the CEO's salary and the fees customers pay to purchase mutual funds, and the additional fees that other banks don't charge," he said. "Does the CEO, who earns NIS 1.552 million a month, need a subsidy? Should the customers be subsidizing him? I demand that Mizrahi's CEO come to the Finance Committee. On Yones' salary, an entire neighborhood could support itself."

Nor did Gafni later calm down. Instead, he surprised his fellow committee members by deciding to cancel a discussion on the additional fees banks charge when customers purchase mutual funds. The main issue is a 0.0003% clearing fee that the bourse charges when customers purchase funds, and which committee members say Mizrahi has started charging its customers, too.

For the year 2009, Bank Mizrahi-Tefahot reported net profit of NIS 530 million, a drop of 12% from the NIS 602 million netted the year before.