Arison Meets With Fischer but Won't Pull Her Complaint to State Comptroller

Principals in Hapoalim fight invited to Knesset Finance Committee next week

Shari Arison, the controlling shareholder of Bank Hapoalim, met with Bank of Israel Governor Stanley Fischer in Tel Aviv yesterday. The content of their conversation was not made public, but it appears that the battle between the two is not yet close to being over.

Arison does not intend to withdraw the complaint she submitted to State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss over the central bank's conduct in the forced resignation of Hapoalim chairman Danny Dankner. In fact, she is gathering additional documents in the affair to give to the state watchdog.

Meanwhile, former antitrust commissioner Yoram Turbowicz, who wrote a complimentary opinion on the way Hapoalim's board of directors handled the replacement of the bank's CEO, could be named to that very board. He is likely to take the place of Iris Dror, the chief language and communication officer at the Arison Group and one of Arison's appointed representatives to the board. She was forced out of the group after eight years due to a dispute with another Arison board representative, Arison Holdings CEO Efrat Peled, over the fight between Hapoalim and the Bank of Israel. Dror is expected to leave her seat on the board of directors soon.

Earlier this week, Dankner announced his resignation as chairman of Bank Hapoalim, at the end of a long - more than four hours - and stormy board meeting. In August, he will hand the chairmanship over to Yair Seroussi.

Afterward, criticism was voiced about the Bank of Israel's interference in the meeting: External members of Hapoalim's board of directors spoke with central bank officials, who asked them to consider the implications of having both the CEO and the chairman leave the bank at the same time, assuming that the former, Zvi Ziv, steps down immediately.

The Bank of Israel said in response that it regrets the ongoing public argument over the matter, as it causes damage to Bank Hapoalim.

On Wednesday, the Knesset Finance Committee will discuss the management crisis at Hapoalim.

Arison, Dankner, Fischer and the Bank of Israel's supervisor of banks, Rony Hizkiyahu, have all been invited to attend, but as of last night, not all the RSVPs had been received.

MK Jacob Edery (Kadima) asked for the meeting.

"This is a matter of the greatest public importance, particularly in light of the fact that there is a certain crisis in confidence between Bank Hapoalim and the Bank of Israel," the chairman of the committee, MK Moshe Gafni (United Torah Judaism), said in acceding to Edery's request.

"The public needs to know that the [country's] banks are being properly supervised and that the Bank of Israel will take action as necessary."

Gafni added that he hopes the committee will hear clear explanations of the reasons behind the central bank's decision to seek Dankner's ouster.

Edery said this week that the committee has the right to receive information about the central bank's demand. "I assume that the rationales of the governor and the banks supervisor were correct, but the public nevertheless deserves an explanation of what exactly happened there," he said.

"It is also not clear why Dankner can continue to sit on the Hapoalim board of directors until the end of 2009," Edery continued. "It seems to me that this affair could have been ended sooner. Drawing out the crisis caused damage to Bank Hapoalim, and in particular to its customers."