Bar association opens ethics probe into MQG head Eliad Shraga

The sister of the disabled soldier had reportedly claimed that Shraga had charged them NIS 1.5 million for services.

 People stand in line at an election booth for the Israel Bar Association vote on June 20, 2023 (photo credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/MAARIV)
People stand in line at an election booth for the Israel Bar Association vote on June 20, 2023

The Israel Bar Association’s Tel Aviv district ethics committee opened an investigation on Monday into Dr. Eliad Shraga, the head of the Movement for Quality Government in Israel, in response to Israeli media reports that the lawyer charged excessive fees in the handling of the estate of a deceased disabled ex-IDF soldier.

Channel 12 made the claim online Monday ahead of its full report later that night. The sister of the deceased disabled soldier had reportedly claimed that Shraga had charged her NIS 1.5 million for services in a dispute over her brother’s estate. When there was disagreement about the lawyer’s fees, Shraga and the woman went into arbitration, the arbitrator reportedly saying that Shraga had requested an abnormal sum.

According to KAN, in addition to hourly rates and an administration fee, Shraga had requested a bonus of 20% of the estate’s worth – though the woman would have reportedly received 50% regardless of the case outcome. He had also required that his client hire him if she used winnings to purchase real estate. The arbitrator told Kan that Shraga did not meet his obligations in disclosing fee arrangements.

Kan also reported Tuesday that Shraga included in contracts that all fee disagreements were to be settled in arbitration under a gag order. When the proceeding with the disabled soldier’s estate reached court, the gag order was dismissed, and the MQG head called for the judge’s dismissal from the case over a conflict of interest because she was married to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s chief of staff.

While the Channel 12 report described her as a simple woman being taken advantage of by one of Israel’s top lawyers, Shraga’s private firm said that she lived in a luxury villa in north Tel Aviv and had won millions of shekels thanks to the office’s years of work.

“This is a client who received legal services and legal representation from the office in countless procedures, and hundreds of hours of work, for six years in a row, without paying a single penny in fees, and who, after we won a verdict that yielded her millions of shekels, tried to evade paying the fees she committed to in an agreement,” Shraga’s law firm said in response to the allegations.

KAN said that there had been similar allegations against Shraga in the past. One man had said that Shraga had demanded two million shekels from him in fees, but had later received only NIS 120,000.

Suspicious timing

Shraga’s law firm said that the timing of the allegations was suspect given the approach of the High Court of Justice reasonableness standard law hearing on September 12. The historic hearing would see MQG as one of the petitioners against the first judicial reform legislation to pass in the Knesset. Besides its role in court, MQG has led activism and protests against the government’s judicial reform plan.

“The timing of the publication is not surprising, given its proximity to the precedent-setting and historic Supreme Court hearing on the reasonableness standard, which is being led by Dr. Eliad Shraga in his role as chairman of the Movement for Quality Government in Israel,” said Shraga’s law firm.

Last Wednesday, KAN reported that according to MQG’s former legal adviser, Shraga had forced the NGO’s employees to sign new contracts that would obligate them to participate in demonstrations against Netanyahu around the time that investigation into alleged corruption began. The legal adviser told Kan that Shraga had withheld wages from employees to pressure them into signing. MQG told Kan that the claims were false.