The Israel Securities Authority (ISA) is the statutory regulatory body that oversees Israel’s capital markets. It was established in 1968 as part of major reforms to develop the country’s financial markets. The ISA is responsible for supervising and regulating the Israeli securities industry, including the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange. It aims to foster fair and efficient capital markets while protecting investors.

The ISA has broad regulatory and enforcement powers over the securities industry in Israel. It oversees the disclosure and reporting obligations of public companies, regulates investment advisors and portfolio managers, and monitors trading activities. The ISA licenses and supervises stock exchanges, clearing houses, and other market infrastructure organizations. It also sets standards for corporate governance, insider trading, and other issues affecting securities markets.

Powers and Responsibilities

The main functions and responsibilities of the Israel Securities Authority include:

  • Regulating the issuance and trading of securities including stocks, bonds, mutual funds, and derivatives. The ISA reviews prospectuses, registration statements, and ongoing disclosures by public companies.
  • Supervising the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange, the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange Clearing House, and other trading platforms. The ISA monitors trading activities and can take enforcement action for violations.
  • Licensing and overseeing brokers, investment advisors, underwriters, portfolio managers, and rating companies. The ISA sets qualification standards and regulates the activities of securities professionals.
  • Enforcing securities laws and regulations. The ISA investigates cases of market manipulation, insider trading, and other violations. It can impose administrative sanctions or refer criminal matters to the state attorney.
  • Promoting investor education and protecting the interests of the investing public. The ISA issues investor alerts and other information to help investors make informed decisions.
  • Coordinating with other domestic financial regulators on issues of systemic risk monitoring and financial stability. The ISA collaborates particularly closely with the Bank of Israel.
  • Representing Israel in international organizations like IOSCO and cooperating with overseas securities regulators on enforcement matters. The ISA promotes adoption of global standards in Israel’s markets.

The Israel Securities Authority is governed by a six-member board chaired by the ISA Chairman. Members include representatives from the Bank of Israel, the Ministry of Finance, and the public. The board is responsible for setting policy and oversight. Day-to-day operations are led by the ISA Director, who acts as the chief executive.

Key Developments and Events

Some notable events and developments for the Israel Securities Authority in recent years include:

  • 2016 – The ISA introduces new rules requiring disclosure of senior executive compensation by public companies. This aims to improve transparency and corporate governance.
  • 2018 – The ISA bans binary options trading, which has proliferated in Israel over the prior decade. Binary options are considered high-risk speculative investments.
  • 2019 – The ISA relaxes rules on issuing equity-based executive pay to help Israeli firms compete for global talent. This reverses policy enacted after the 2008 financial crisis.
  • 2020 – During the Covid-19 pandemic, the ISA eases regulatory requirements to lower companies’ compliance burdens given the economic fallout.
  • 2021 – The ISA cracks down on “pump and dump” schemes attempted by social media groups to manipulate small-cap stocks on the Tel Aviv exchange.
  • 2022 – New open banking regulations come into effect, allowing financial technology firms to access customer data from banks per ISA rules. This aims to enable innovation.

Regulation of Securities Offerings

A major responsibility of the Israel Securities Authority is overseeing the issuance of securities to the public. Any offer or sale of securities in Israel must be approved by the ISA unless it qualifies for an exemption. The ISA reviews registration statements, prospectuses, and supplemental filings related to public offerings.

The ISA focuses on ensuring adequate and accurate disclosure of all material information necessary for investors to make informed decisions. It provides guidance on disclosure requirements and filing procedures. The ISA has the authority to deny or suspend a securities registration if the issuer fails to comply with regulations.

Key aspects of the ISA’s regulation of securities offerings include:

  • Reviewing prospectus – The ISA thoroughly reviews the draft prospectus for an initial public offering (IPO) or other securities issue to verify completeness of disclosures per ISA guidelines.
  • Approving/denying registration – Based on its review, the ISA can approve or deny the registration statement and allow the public offer to proceed or halt activities.
  • Ongoing disclosures – The ISA requires issuers to file supplements amending the prospectus for any material changes, quarterly and annual reports, and other disclosures.
  • Shelf offerings – Well-established public companies can file a shelf registration for efficient recurring issuance of securities over 24 months.
  • Foreign issuers – The ISA accommodates foreign issuer disclosure standards like U.S. GAAP but maintains authority to require supplemental info.

Supervision of Trading and Markets

Another vital role of the Israel Securities Authority is overseeing trading activities in the country’s capital markets. The ISA monitors securities transactions to detect any wrongdoing and ensure market integrity. It has extensive investigatory and enforcement powers.

Key aspects of how the ISA supervises trading and markets include:

  • Surveillance – The ISA monitors real-time and post-trade market data to identify anomalies, excessive volatility, insider trading, and other red flags.
  • Inspections – On-site inspections at brokerages and other regulated entities ensure compliance with regulations for record-keeping, client asset segregation, and more.
  • Investigations – Following up on referrals, tips, and suspicious activities, the ISA conducts in-depth investigations gathering documents and testimony.
  • Enforcement – When violations are identified, the ISA can impose administrative sanctions including fines, suspensions, and revocations. It also initiates criminal prosecutions via the state attorney as warranted.
  • Regulating market infrastructure – The ISA oversees exchange and clearing house activities including promulgating rules, product approvals, risk management, and system safeguards.
  • International cooperation – The ISA exchanges information with securities regulators globally to detect cross-border misconduct benefiting from Israel’s treaty network.

Regulation of Financial Intermediaries

The Israel Securities Authority regulates and supervises a range of financial intermediaries involved in the country’s securities industry. These include investment advisors, underwriters, portfolio managers, and rating agencies.

The ISA establishes minimum standards for licensing and conducts oversight to protect investors dealing with intermediaries. Core areas of regulation cover:

  • Licensing – Financial intermediaries must meet qualification criteria for knowledge, experience and fitness to receive an ISA license enabling them to operate in the Israeli markets.
  • Business standards – The ISA mandates practices for client onboarding, know-your-customer procedures, suitability assessment, trade execution, recordkeeping, and other activities.
  • Conflicts of interest – Rules prohibit activities like front-running and require disclosure of conflicts of interest or self-dealing to mitigate potential risks these pose.
  • Prudential requirements – Intermediaries must hold minimum capital levels, secure professional liability coverage, and comply with client asset segregation rules set by the ISA.
  • Reporting – Periodic reporting to the ISA includes submitting financial statements, client asset balances, and details on disciplinary events.
  • Cybersecurity – Robust cybersecurity protections for client data and strengthened resilience against cyber attacks are mandated.
  • Enforcement – Securities intermediaries face supervisory and enforcement actions for violations of applicable regulations and standards.

Promoting Investor Protection

Investor education, assistance, and protection are important priorities underlying the Israel Securities Authority’s regulatory approach and activities. The ISA undertakes various initiatives aimed at helping the investing public. Efforts of the ISA in this area involve:

  • Investor education – Resources including market overviews, research tutorials, videos, brochures, and in-person events improve financial and securities knowledge.
  • Investor alerts – Timely warnings about emerging frauds, risky products, and unlicensed actors help investors steer clear of pitfalls.
  • Inquiry assistance – Dedicated help services assist retail investors with inquiries about brokers, investments, regulations, and filing complaints.
  • Enforcement focus – Proactive enforcement aims to deter marketplace misconduct and abuse targeting vulnerable retail investors.
  • Policy advocacy – The ISA advocates for strong securities laws, disclosure standards, and other investor protections during policymaking processes.
  • Dispute resolution – Mediation services facilitate resolutions between investors and regulated firms as an alternative to court.
  • International engagement – The ISA partners with IOSCO and other bodies to promote robust global investor protection standards.

Overall, the Israel Securities Authority plays a vital role cultivating dynamic capital markets that earn investor confidence through rigorous oversight and transparent rules applied fairly to all participants. It strives to strike the right balance between facilitating financial innovation and access while also safeguarding market integrity and stability. The ISA’s regulatory framework and capacity have strengthened considerably over the decades since its founding, contributing significantly to the growth of Israel’s economy and financial sector.