Eli Aroch: I Won and They Lost

Interview: How he beat the giant, and the system

Eli Aroch is celebrating his triumph, and what could be gayer than interviews in the press and on TV, flashing light bulbs, being stormed by reporters covering the sudden transformation of the little man into a very rich one, at the expense of a giant corporation. After all, wresting NIS 95 million from an insurance company, one controlled by one of Israel's most powerful businessmen yet - Nochi Dankner - is not something that happens every day.

The rub lies in not a few reports that Aroch threatened the Clal Insurance people and others too.

Did he, or didn't he? Aroch admits that he did, a little, and that he did time for it, too. He has admitted to misdemeanors and does not deny imposing pressures of his own on the Clal Insurance people after their tactics exhausted his endurance, he says.

Not that Clal Insurance is calling it a day and cutting a check. Yesterday its chief executive, Avigdor Kaplan, convened a press conference at which he leveled grave charges against the speculator, including threats against company executives and their families. Aroch, speaking with TheMarker, has his own tale to tell.

"They have nothing against me except for that story about threats," Aroch says. "For six years they have been fighting me. They tried to portray me as insane, delusional, but I am not a criminal and do not have a criminal record. They even tried to get me locked up in prison for six months but at the end of the day I won and they lost."

Actually, he does have a criminal record: what he wishes to convey is that he is not a criminal by nature. Meanwhile, Aroch, 41, has his own charges to level.

"They brought an expert witness, Prof. Dan Galai, and I taped him on video and exposed that they had fooled the arbitrator. On the videotape you see me ask their expert a theoretical question and he said I was owed money," Aroch relates.

"Later they managed to convince the police, through a directive of Gideon Ezra, who was Internal Security minister a the time, to reopen cases against me that had been closed. After that they raced to the District Court judge Adi Azar, may be rest in peace, and told him that because of these criminal cases the arbitration process should be halted. But he threw them out with a fine," he goes on.

Altogether, Aroch says, the Clal Insurance people tried to have the arbitration proceeding annulled no less than five times, at the District and Supreme Court. They lost each time. And finally the arbitrator accepted the version of his own expert witness, Prof. Nahum Biger, and he won.

Threatening workers and managers is a grave offense. You admitted to criminal charges.

"I admitted to the charges because it was important to me to end the civilian process. It was clear that until the criminal case was over, there would be no arbitration ruling. That was after I had already say in jail for five months, so I accepted a plea bargain. I made the bargain and was released, and that's how I managed to release the civilian proceedings."

There were no criminal charges?

"There were small things here and there, but everything they are talking about is a lie."

Why did you try to contact the workers and do things you shouldn't?

"I was under terrific pressure. I was a single person facing a giant system. They sicced private investigators on me. They dragged out the legal proceedings. I lost my temper. After all I'm just a simple man."

Did you know you would win?

"It was clear that it was going in my direction, which is why it was important to me to wrap up the criminal matter. All the Batucha workers were taped on candid camera explaining the laws, and were therefore exposed confirming my claims."

What actually was the problem?

"Their software was wrong. They said I didn't have guarantees, but it wasn't true. I told them they had a problem with the software, but it took months to fix it. Meanwhile they continued to hurt their clients. Back in 2000 they knew their software was malfunctioning."

Why did you threaten the judge?

"I didn't threaten the judge, it's all in the minutes. They said I threatened everybody, so the judge jested that he was threatened too."

It seems a little strange that the best experts can't achieve profits like you claim you did.

"I am a mathematician. I have a mathematical formula."

What is it?

"The method is based on selling (Maof) options for higher prices than others, and buying them for less, without losing on expiration days. I can earn a great deal of money. The problem is that they stopped me at NIS 50 million."

Why did they stop you, if you were earning so well? Why should they care?

"From their perspective, it was a conflict of interest. It got in the way of their proprietary portfolio, meaning their own investments, and they didn't want me.

Did you work it out yourself?

"Yes, at home in front of my computer. Nobody in the world has ever managed to do this, only me. Within ten days I reached NIS 50 million profit, but when they managed my portfolio after closing down my account, they lost it all inside four months. During the arbitration I suggested I show them how from a position of minus 50% I could reach plus 10%, but they were afraid to try me. Later it turned out that their own Maof options manager was working without a license."

If you're that good, why didn't you just continue working somewhere else? At a bank, or another investment firm?

"I couldn't. They had me blackballed everywhere. They are big and strong. At that time, the banks didn't really know how to handle trade in Maof options and they told the banks not to go near me. They besmirched me in the press and it wasn't for the first time. We went to war, and had 60 meetings with the arbitrator. I won, I won. A Supreme Court justice isn't an idiot. But they continue to tarnish my name."

You don't have the money yet.

"Now they've gone back to the Supreme Court, to stop the arbitration. Within three weeks of the court approving the arbitration finding, I'll get the money."

The tax bill will probably be pretty big. Have you hired an adviser?

"No, I have no idea about the taxes. When I get the money, I'll hire somebody."

What about your lawyers? They must have made a mint.

"Yes, I upgraded them. They're in the national leagues now."

Will you continue to invest in options?

"Yes, but only abroad. Here, my career is over."