In May of last year, Stanley Fisher, the Israeli equivalent of the Chairman of the Federal Reserve Ben Bernanke, was absolutely insistent on removing Bank HaPoalim chairman Danny Dankner from his post. He would simply have it no other way. As it turned out yesterday, Fisher, an immigrant from the United States who speaks with a thick American-accented Hebrew, made the right decision and saved HaPoalim, one of Israel’s largest banks, from possible disaster.
Fisher was single-minded in his determination to oust Dankner from the post, and met stiff opposition from HaPoalim. Dankner had refused to resign, and Sari Arison, the majority stockholder in the bank, backed him. Fisher then began the long legal process of removing him from his position, a process which ended ultimately with Fisher’s own decision, with the backing of the Knesset Finance Committee, to in fact remove Dankner.
Until now, people were unsure why Fisher was so insistent, but as it turns out, Dankner is now being investigated for a host of white collar crimes he allegedly committed while director of the bank. Had he been chairman today, the damage to HaPoalim would have been irreparable.
According to Knesset Member Shelli Yacimovich (Labor), a member of the finance committee, Fisher had quietly asked for their support in removing Dankner without asking questions. They trusted him and did so. Yacimovich recently came out with a statement in which she said, “The Governor deserves a thank you. It seems that if Dankner had continued on in his post, we would have been in a dangerous situation…the governor did his job as a regulator.”
Fisher himself feels uncomfortable about all the praise considering the sad nature of the story, but acknowledges that the Bank of Israel did help save HaPoalim.
Knesset Member Tzion Pinian (Likud) had this to say of Fisher’s meeting with the Finance Committee last year in which he asked for the MKs’ support in removing Dankner, “In the meeting in the back room, the secrets outnumbered what was apparent, but I had suspected foul play.”