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Friday October 25, 2013 MYT 1:05:02 AM
Friday October 25, 2013 MYT 1:05:54 AM
by steven scheer
JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israeli Finance Minister Yair Lapid and other policymakers condemned on Thursday what they called a "smear campaign" against the country's securities regulator, Shmuel Hauser.
Their comments followed the launch by a public relations firm, Ronnen Tzur, of a Facebook page entitled "SaveTASE" that blames Hauser for the poor performance of the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange. A spokesman for Ronnen Tzur said the firm represented "concerned investors" but gave no details.
Hauser, chairman of the Israel Securities Authority, met with the finance minister on Thursday.
Lapid said afterwards that he rejected the campaign against the regulator by "anonymous sources who are wealthy and who have hidden interests", and who aimed to intimidate a public servant trying to do his job.
The commissioner for capital markets, Israel's banking regulator and its anti-trust commissioner also issued a joint statement condemning the campaign.
"It appears that this case crosses the line, and an attempt to influence policy has become an unrestrained attack on a public servant," the three said in the joint statement.
Ronnen Tzur's spokesman alleged that regulations introduced by Hauser had cost public companies millions of shekels.
These include rules limiting the power of controlling shareholders and giving minority stakeholders more influence over key issues such as executive salaries and imposing stringent reporting requirements.
"Dozens of companies have delisted from the Israeli stock exchange, volumes are at record lows and have fallen more than most places in the world, thousands of people have lost their jobs in the capital market and no normal company wants to list on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange at the moment," he said.
Hauser has said regulation is not the only issue affecting the market, and last month called for TASE members to float the bourse to revive trading volumes, which have halved since 2010.
The blue-chip TA-25 index is up just 8.5 percent so far in 2013, lagging most global markets. In September, share volume was down 21 percent from a year earlier to an average of $311 million per day.
A row between TASE's management and Hauser's ISA over how to boost trade prompted the exchange's chief executive and chairman to resign in July. A new CEO is due to be appointed soon.
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