Matthew Bronfman Resigns From Bank Board

By Nathaniel Popper

Published April 20, 2007, issue of April 20, 2007.
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Matthew Bronfman, a candidate for the presidency of the scandal-plagued World Jewish Congress, resigned last week from the board of Israel Discount Bank’s New York branch.

Bronfman’s April 13 resignation came after the bank commissioned a report to look at allegations of potential conflicts of interest in his work at the bank.

While the report has not been released, the bank’s interim chairman, Michael Goldstein, said that it was a “factor” in Bronfman’s resignation; however, Goldstein said that nothing in the report impugned Bronfman’s “moral integrity.” “He’s a man of unquestionable integrity,” Goldstein added.

Matthew Bronfman is a son of beverage heir Edgar Bronfman, president of the World Jewish Congress. Last year, the Bronfmans bought a 26% share in the Tel Aviv-based Israel Discount Bank, of which the New York bank is a fully owned subsidiary. The Tel Aviv headquarters released a statement saying that Bronfman and two other board members resigned because the bank no longer wanted board members who had any ownership interest.

The questions about Bronfman’s activities at the bank were first reported in Crain’s New York Business. According to Crain’s, an outside law firm was hired by the bank to look into allegations that Bronfman received a $900,000 loan before his family bought bank shares. Crain’s also reported that before releasing a report, the law firm investigated whether Bronfman used space in the bank headquarters for his civic activities.

A spokesman for Bronfman said that “the report exonerates him.”

The person who first raised questions about Bronfman’s activities — the chairman of the bank’s board, Leonard Grunstein — was pushed out last week.

Bronfman’s lawyer, George Canellos, released a statement saying that Bronfman, who maintains his ownership stake in the bank, “regrets that the bank had to terminate Leonard Grunstein, who refused to heed calls for his resignation.”

Canellos added that Bronfman is looking forward to continuing his work as an owner “for the benefit of the bank and its shareholders.”

Bronfman is rumored to be a candidate for president of the WJC. He is currently the head of the organization’s budget and finance commission. In recent years, the organization has been accused of mismanagement on several fronts, including criticism that Edgar Bronfman and other top WJC officials operated the organization with inadequate financial oversight.

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