Photo of Bharat Vasani

Partner in the  General Corporate and TMT Practice at the Mumbai office of Cyril Amarchand Managaldas. Bharat has over 30 years of experience at senior management level. His areas of specialization includes company law, corporate and commercial laws, securities law, capital market, mergers and acquisitions, joint ventures, media & entertainment law, competition law, employment law and property matters. He heads firm’s media and entertainment law practice.  He is highly regarded in Government circles and in various industry organizations for his proactive approach on public policy issues. Bharat was a member of the Expert Committee appointed by the Government of India to revise the Companies Act, 2013.

Prior to joining the Firm, Bharat was the Group General Counsel of the Tata Group.  He has been at the helm of and steered several large key M&A transactions pursued by the Tata Group in the last 17 years.

Bharat’s contribution to the legal fraternity has been recognized by the Harvard Law School’s Award for Professional Excellence in 2016. Bharat has won several other national and international awards for his various achievements. He had a brilliant academic record in law and first rank holder in all India company secretary examination. He can be reached at bharat.vasani@cyrilshroff.com

ESOPS as Managerial Remuneration - Do Regulators Need to Revisit Regulatory Architecture

Employee Stock Option Plans (ESOPs) are a well-recognised method of compensating employees and attracting and retaining the best talent. Compensation in the form of equity shares helps in creating a sense of ownership in the mind of employees. Benefit schemes for employees, including ESOPs, have gained popularity, especially in technology start-ups that have limited financial resources in the initial years, but want to attract the best talent. ESOPs are the option or a right, but not an obligation, which is offered by a company to its employees to purchase its shares at a pre-determined price in the future. ESOPs align the interest of the employees with long term interest of the companies and play a vital role in retaining employees at the growing stage of the company.

Section 2(37) of the Companies Act, 2013 (“Act”), defines ‘employees’ stock option’ as the option given to directors, officers or employees of a company or of its holding company or subsidiary company or companies, if any, which gives such directors, officers or employees, the benefit or right to purchase, or to subscribe for, the shares of the company at a future date at a pre-determined price. The Act expressly prohibits ESOPs for Independent Directors[1] as the law makers believe that it compromises the ‘independence’ of such Independent Directors. Section 62(1)(b) of the Act provides for the approval of shareholders by a special resolution. Rule 12 of the Companies (Share Capital & Debentures) Rules, 2014, lays down the legal framework for issuance of ESOPs for unlisted companies. Listed companies having ESOP plans are required to comply with the SEBI (Share Based Employee Benefits) Regulations, 2014 (“ESOP Regulations”).
Continue Reading ESOPS as Managerial Remuneration: Do Regulators Need to Revisit Regulatory Architecture?

SEBI report on RPTs – Deeper Reflections

SEBI had implemented the Kotak Committee recommendations on Related Party Transactions (RPTs) by making amendments to the Listing Obligations and Disclosure Requirements Regulations, 2015 (“LODR”) on May 9, 2018. In less than two years, in November 2019, SEBI constituted a Working Group (WG) to re-examine the RPT provisions of the LODR, against the backdrop of new corporate scandals, which surfaced, where certain abusive RPTs were undertaken by the listed entity at a subsidiary level, which were not captured by the LODR provisions. The WG Report addressed this loophole and made several recommendations, which were examined by the author in his blog article titled “SEBI Working Group on Related Party Transactions: Will the net be cast too wide? published on February 5, 2020.

In this Blog, the author wants to share his deeper reflections on some of the recommendation made in the WG report. The author argues that this WG report requires a more detailed scrutiny by the SEBI, before it is enacted into a law, by amendments to the LODR. Both these blogs should be read together to get a complete picture of the changes proposed in the WG report.
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Claw back clauses in Employment Contracts - A new tool to fight corporate misfeasance

The 2008 financial crisis made it possible to revisit contractual clauses of employees, especially those governing remunerations of executives in financial institutions. One of the clauses that gained prominence was the clause pertaining to ‘clawback’. Broadly speaking, clawback clause refers to an action for recoupment of a loss. It means the refund or return of incentive or compensation after they have been paid. The purpose of such a clause is to claim back unfair enrichment that has happened to an employee. Such a clause acts as a form of insurance and was originally applied in cases of misstatement of financial results or fraudulent acts by employees, but over time, the scope of this clause has gradually expanded.
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COVID-19 at the movies

The year 2019 had been a groundbreaking year for the Indian film industry, which saw some of its best box office performances in the past decade. As content took center stage, many films of various budgets witnessed success at the box-office. However, the year 2020 seems to be a completely different story.

The outbreak of COVID-19 in December 2019 has left the global economy in a state of mayhem. While, the true impact of COVID-19 was not truly experienced in India until early March, the country knew it was a matter of ‘when,’ and not ‘if’. By March 15, 2020 we saw the Central and State Governments introducing policies to limit social interaction, ordering shut down of establishments and taking precautionary measure to implement ‘social distancing’. The limitation on movement and a fear of contracting COVID-19 steered a large number of people away from cinema halls and into their homes, impacting the movie business within India and around the world.
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Coronavirus - COVID19- Faqs

The World Health Organisation (WHO) declared COVID-19 as a “pandemic” on March 11, 2020.

The outbreak and the rapid spread of COVID-19 has sent shock waves across global markets. It has disrupted supply chains, leading to the closure of several manufacturing facilities globally; serious disruption of air and sea traffic and closure of vital air routes, like the one between the US and Europe. This is turn has led to the collapse of stock markets around the world, leading to the loss of billions of dollars, which got wiped out in a matter of days. A combination of all these factors has led to a decline in the overall volume of global economic activity, forcing the world economy towards a possible recession. It is forcing Boards across the globe to confront a host of difficult questions on how business should be conducted during a global public health crisis.
Continue Reading COVID-19 : OFFICIALLY A PANDEMIC

SEBI Working Group on Related Party Transactions

 In the battle for good governance, India Inc. keeps tripping on three letters – RPT. Related-Party Transactions. This, despite the fact that India has one of the most elaborate set of rules and regulations for disclosures and approval of RPT by both listed and unlisted companies.

Historically, the Companies Act, 1956 did not specifically regulate RPTs. It had provisions that only restricted certain types of transactions.

The Companies Act, 2013 (CA, 2013) enacted Section 188, which for the first time began regulating certain types of transactions between companies and its “related parties” (as defined in CA 2013), and provided for the approval of such transactions (exceeding a prescribed monetary threshold) by non-related parties.
Continue Reading SEBI Working Group on Related Party Transactions: Will the net be cast too wide?

DECRIMINALIZING OUR COMPANY LAW

In line with the government’s stated goal of promoting Ease of Doing Business, the Company Law Committee (CLC), set up by the Ministry of Corporate Affairs (MCA), has recently submitted its report to the MCA, recommending decriminalisation of 46 compoundable offences under the Companies Act, 2013 (the Act). This list is in addition to the 16 compoundable offences already decriminalised by the Companies (Amendment) Act, 2019.

To put things into perspective, attempts to decriminalise business laws is not new to India. This process began with liberalisation of the Indian economy in 1991. The first commercial law that was decriminalised was the Imports and Exports (Control) Act, 1947. It was replaced by the Foreign Trade (Development and Regulation) Act, 1992, which decriminalised most of the offences relating to imports and exports. The most fundamental step in this direction was the replacement of draconian Foreign Exchange Regulation Act (FERA), 1973, by Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA), 1999 which decriminalized offences relating to foreign exchange regulations.
Continue Reading Decriminalizing our Company Law – Has the Pendulum Moved Too Far?

Surveillance in the Post-Puttaswamy Era - Right to Privacy

In 1997, the Supreme Court of India (Supreme Court) pronounced its judgment in the case of People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) v. Union of India (SC, 1997) (PUCL Case), which laid the groundwork for the right to privacy in the context of telephonic surveillance (i.e. wiretaps) and constitutional freedoms.

This article analyses the Supreme Court’s stance on the right to privacy in the PUCL Case, which was upheld in the 2017 landmark judgment by the nine-judge bench in KS Puttaswamy v. Union of India (SC, 2017) (Puttaswamy Case) that declared privacy a fundamental right. The applicability of the right to privacy has recently received further validation in the context of wiretaps in the October 2019 judgment in Vinit Kumar v. Central Bureau of Investigations and Ors (Bom HC, 2019) (Vinit Kumar Case), wherein the Bombay High Court outlined the ambit of the State’s power to surveil its subjects particularly on matters that do not fall within the category of ‘public emergency’ or ‘in the interest of public safety’.
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New Significant Beneficial Owner (SBO) rules - Companies Act - Implementation Challenges

India is yet to hit its stride in dealing with Significant Beneficial Owner (SBO) rules introduced by the Companies (Amendment) Act, 2017. The SBO rules have its origin in the recommendations made by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) to its member countries, to make suitable changes in the national legislation to find out individuals, who ultimately own significant beneficial shareholding in the reporting company. There remains a large degree of uncertainty and confusion around the new norms, and their practical impact, as explored below.

Sections 89(10) and 90 of the Companies Act, 2013 (Act) were introduced on the recommendations of the Company Law Committee (CLC) in its Report dated February 1, 2016. The CLC noted that complex structures and chains of corporate vehicles are used to hide the real owners behind the transactions made using those structures.
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To Bet or Not to Bet - Sports Betting Laws in India

As the society changes, the law cannot remain immutable”

– Justice D P Madon

They say cricket is not a game, it is a religion. In 2019, the India – Pakistan ICC World Cup match saw a viewership of 229 million within India itself[1]. The importance of cricket as a unifying force cannot be debated and needn’t be proved; what is rather interesting is the ancillary impact a simple match of cricket can have on an economy, such as India.

Economic exploitation of cricket is widespread globally: it includes broadcasting rights, sponsorship and merchandising, to name a few. However, another prevalent and illegal exploitation in the form of betting takes precedence over all of the above, for the simple reason that due to the nature of the transaction, the said consideration paid, is officially taken out of India’s financial system and put into a parallel industry, which remains untaxed and unregulated.
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