Recently, President Erdogan’s inner circles have intensified attacks on Isbank, the biggest private Turkish bank, and the pressure has only been increasing. Established in 1924 by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of the Republic of Turkey, Isbank has been heavily criticized by pro-government mass media since 2012. Yigit Bulut, a senior advisor to Prime Minister Erdogan was the last to bash the bank last January. Bulut openly stated that the government should be managing the bank’s operations.
Isbank often falls victim of heated political debates because of its structure. According to Ataturk’s will, the Republican People’s Party (the main opposition party) is supposed to hold 28% of the bank’s shares. In his speech Bulut contested this provision, denying the Republican People’s Party’s right to be the bank’s major shareholder. He also said that the bank should be promptly expropriated and turned into a state-controlled institution.
Bulut’s remarks shook the markets causing Isbank’s shares to lose about 5% of their value the following day. The managers of Isbank were also shocked. Though there were calls to expropriate the bank in the past, it was the first explicit statement on the topic produced by a high-ranking official closely affiliated with the President. A week later, President Erdogan received a letter signed by Ersin Ozince, Chairman of the bank’s Board of Directors, and Adnan Bali, the bank’s General Manager. According to the information released by a Middle Eastern news agency Аl-Monitor, the letter contained the bank’s background and listed concerns over Bulut’s statements.