Will Donald Trump's presidency mean a better deal for the Israeli Hapoalim Bank, currently under Justice Department investigation over allegations that the bank helped American clients evade taxes?
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The New York Times reported on Saturday that the bank, Israel's largest, gave multiple loans to Kushner Companies, the multibillion business owned by the family of Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner. Kushner, who's married to Trump's daughter Ivanka, served as a key adviser in Trump's successful presidential campaign and is said to be in the running as his chief of staff, even as the new administration is set to lead the decisive stages in the investigation against Hapoalim.
The bank may reach an understanding with the American regulators during 2017 on the final fine, which could be significantly higher than the sums the bank has shelled in set-asides and legal costs due to the investigation so far – some 155 million dollars.
Aside from the allegations of aiding in tax evasion, Hapoalim and other banks are under investigation over their alleged involvement in the FIFA graft affair, in which senior members of the soccer organization were bribed in return for broadcasting rights.
The U.S. investigation has serious ramifications for Hapoalim's expansion strategy in U.S. in the credit business, which may include the purchase of an American bank in the future. In addition, the Israeli banks regulator is waiting for the American investigation to end before allowing Hapoalim to increase the dividend to stockholders to 50 percent.
Hapoalim said that the bank could not respond whether a certain person was or was not a client.