Bank Leumi officials asked to present case [pg. 15]

Senior managers at Bank Leumi Le-Israel and associated pension funds have been summoned to present their case to the state prosecutor in connection with a fund advising scandal, in the last step of a criminal procedure before indictments could be issued, someone close to the investigation said Sunday. "This [will be] the most serious indictment issued against banking heads in two decades," or since the banks were caught artificially inflating the value of their shares in the 1980s, the source said. "This is unprecedented." As a result of the hearing, the state prosecutor's office will either decide to indict the suspects or drop the charges. The summonses were sent to Bank Leumi deputy CEOs Dov Gilboa and Zvi Itzkovitch' manager of Leumi Pia Michael Tzivier; and Psagot Ofek manager Gabriella Ravid, and 11 other senior officials, in addition to the bank and the two funds by name. The Israel Securities Authority began investigating Leumi and its funds after the Psagot Madadit 120 mutual fund raised NIS 1.7 billion in deposits on the first day it was launched in 2003, leading to suspicions that the bank's in-house fund advisors had illegally pushed the subsidiary's funds on consumers instead of providing impartial counsel. Soon thereafter, Leumi customers bought NIS 800 million in a Pia fund on its first day, strengthening regulators' suspicions. Pia and Psagot allegedly showered Leumi advisors with such things as jeep tours and meals, influencing the advice that the bank's customers were then given. Subsequent investigations led to disciplinary proceedings against the advisors themselves, who were reprimanded in exchange for their admission of guilt, through a deal closed with the state prosecutor Thursday. Criminal proceedings are being pursued against the senior officials implicated in the affair, who could be sentenced to a maximum of one year in prison, if convicted. Confirming that the officials' summons had been received and that the advisors had accepted the plea bargain, Bank Leumi said "our world vision was, is and will continue to be that we at Leumi act according to the law and rules, with the good of the client standing above all, and that is how we have acted in this matter as well."