What would happen to the CEO of a company if its performance criteria were to plummet? How fast would the board of directors summon him for explanations? Would anyone seriously consider giving him a bonus for the performance during the preceding year? How long would he even survive in the job, after telling the board that there was a really big problem, but that he was in no way to blame, and besides, he was very worried about the situation and was seeking a solution?
Tel Aviv Stock Exchange (TASE) CEO Esther Levanon sees herself as the chief executive of a business. Her aides told "Globes" last year that the proper benchmark for salaries of TASE executives is the business sector, with a broad hint at salaries of bank executives.
Levanon's salary is NIS 100,000 a month, and she has made NIS 6.3 million, including a NIS 600,000 bonus, over the past three years. She tried to defend her salary in an interview with "Globes", saying that it should not be compared with the much lower salary of a regulator. "I do not consider myself as a regulator. Someone has been brainwashed and decided that I am a regulator, but that doesn’t make me one," she said.
The problem is that as a manager of a business, Levanon's failure is obvious. The TASE has dried up, as a recently published special "Globes" project has demonstrated. The number of companies listed has fallen to a six-year low, and trading volumes have plummeted and crashed completely during the first quarter of 2012.
TASE is limping as management expands
Levanon is trying to hold both ends of the stick. When talking about her salary terms, she is not a regulator and deserves the salary of a bank executive. But the basic demand of a business executive - to accept responsibility for poor performance and resign, or at least forego his annual bonus - she dismisses. Performance of the TASE's leading indices is dismal, but that does not bother her when asking for a fat bonus, and to turn on anyone who says that her salary is improper. She also has no problem in expanding the TASE's management, creating three new VP positions at a huge salary cost.
As far as Levanon is concerned, she is not responsible for the TASE's condition. The global crisis is to blame, the geopolitical situation is to blame, regulations on investment advisors and investment institutions are to blame, and there are troubles in stock markets all over the world. "There is no oil in Israel, and no peace in the Middle East," she told "Globes", when asked how to bring foreign investors back to Israel. In short, everyone is to blame for the TASE's dismal condition but herself - the woman who has been the CEO of the TASE for the past six years.
Let us be blunt: If Esther Levanon thinks that regulations in Israel do not allow the TASE to develop, she should use all her power to change them, or to tell the chairman of the Israel Securities Authority that she will not accept the responsibility, and resign. After six years in the job, it is not acceptable that the person heading the TASE is not effectively dealing with the severe blow it has suffered, while taking home over a million shekels a year even as she blames everyone but herself for the situation.
Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on March 13, 2012
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