Securities Authority Summons Fishman Over Huge Turkish Lira Losses

Businessman Eliezer Fishman was questioned by the Israel Securities Authority Tuesday, and again yesterday, over the losses he incurred by speculating on the Turkish lira.

He was released without a court hearing. ISA officials are now assembling information pertaining to the case.

Fishman was questioned as the chairman and controlling shareholder (76 percent) of the real estate development company Darban Investments, which is traded on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange. Fishman's losses on the lira, estimated at between NIS 1.5 billion and NIS 3 billion, came to light in May.

The day after Fishman's losses were reported by TheMarker, Darban also reported losses from foreign currency trades that were not part of the company's core business. It described the transactions as part of the controlling shareholder's investment positioning.

Darban lost NIS 11.6 million when the value of the lira plunged in early May. Fishman promised to pay for the loss out of his own pocket.

Darban reported yesterday that corporate office holders have been summoned to discuss foreign currency dealings.

The company is headed by Igal Lavi and Fishman's children, Ronit and Eyal, who are on Darban's board of directors.

The Securities Authority investigation is thought to be focusing on whether Darban erred in not mentioning the losses in a prospectus for a NIS 39 million bond issue to institutional investors in May. Full disclosure of the losses in the prospectus might have changed the bonds' price and driven up the interest rate.

Alliance Tire Company, which is also controlled by Fishman, lost about $11.7 million in his speculation on the Turkish currency, but the investigation is not focusing on this company.

Fishman bet on the exchange rate between the Canadian dollar and the Turkish lira, hoping that the former would plunge and the latter rise.

The total size of the bet was 2.5 billion euros, of which he put up only 50 million euros in cash. This left the banks with an uncovered loss of 200 million euros.

The banks therefore called in their securities, and several weeks ago, Fishman began selling off assets, including the credit card company CAL (ICC Visa) and Tnuport's agricultural holdings.