PRIOR INTIMATION REQUIREMENT UNDER THE LISTING REGULATIONS - A CRITIQUE 

Introduction

Norms concerning corporate governance in India have evolved over a period of time. Since markets and businesses are inherently dynamic, they continue to evolve globally. The Securities and Exchange Board of India (“SEBI”), to its credit, has been on the ball and contributed significantly towards raising the standards of corporate governance for listed entities in India. The proof of the pudding, however, is in the eating and to this end, this piece examines the relevance of the extant requirement of prior intimation prescribed for listed entities in the current market.

Regulations 29 of the Securities and Exchange Board of India (Listing Obligations and Disclosure Requirements) Regulations, 2015, as amended (“Listing Regulations”), requires a listed entity to intimate the stock exchanges beforehand if its board of directors (“Board”) have a meeting scheduled to consider certain specified proposals, including financial results, buy-back of securities, voluntary delisting and fund raising (intimation is also required for general meeting or postal ballot for this proposal indicating the type of issuance).
Continue Reading Prior Intimation Requirement under the Listing Regulations – A Critique

USING SPAC VEHICLES AS A MEANS OF LISTING OUTSIDE INDIA

An overview 

Special Purpose Acquisition Companies (“SPACs”) have made a comeback on the Wall Street. SPACs are essentially investment companies backed by sponsors to raise capital from the public in an initial public offering (“IPO”) in the USA for the sole purpose of using the proceeds to acquire targets that are to be identified after the IPO. The eventual objective is to list the target. As of July 31, 2020, SPACs have raised close to USD 24 billion globally this year. The buzz around SPACs with available funding has reached Indian shores on the possibility of Indian companies being potential SPAC targets or Indian companies teaming up with SPACs to potentially list themselves in overseas markets.
Continue Reading Using SPAC Vehicles as a Means of Listing Outside India

WHAT IS FRONT RUNNING – A Q&A PIECE IN LIGHT OF THE SEBI ORDER AGAINST DEALERS OF RELIANCE SECURITIES LTD

Introduction

In an interim ex-parte order last month against the dealers of Reliance Securities Limited (“RSL”) and other related entities (“RSL Order”)[1], SEBI prima facie held over two dozen entities to have engaged in front running the trades of Tata Absolute Return Fund, a scheme of Tata AIF (“Big Client”).

During its preliminary examination, SEBI meticulously pieced together several bits of available circumstantial evidence and alleged an archetypal scheme of front running purportedly employed by three senior dealers (“Dealers”) at RSL, in nexus with various related entities. The RSL Order alleges that once the Dealers at RSL were privy to the non-public information of the impending orders of Big Client, they along with their connected broker or dealer entity would, through multiple trading accounts directly or indirectly controlled by them, place trades either in the Buy-Buy-Sell pattern or Sell-Sell-Buy pattern, around the time of the orders of the Big Client to generate substantial proceeds.
Continue Reading What is Front Running? – A Q&A Piece in Light of the SEBI Order Against Dealers of Reliance Securities Ltd.

Infrastructure Investment Trusts – Simplifying the Structure

The infrastructure sector is a key driver for any economy. Among the many avenues of financing large-scale investments in infrastructure, including mergers and acquisitions, private equity investments and capital raising, setting-up and establishing infrastructure investment trusts (“InvITs”) has begun to gain traction with developers of infrastructure projects, including by public sector undertakings, to enable them to monetise their assets and undertake further infrastructure development. In the last few months, an increasing interest has also been evinced by large private equity firms, development institutions and multilateral and bilateral financial institutions in not only investing in the units of InvITs, but also in setting-up InvITs either on their own or jointly with Indian developers due to the yields offered by InvITs and the favourable and welcome changes to the tax regime applicable to InvITs, including unlisted InvITs.
Continue Reading Infrastructure Investment Trusts – Simplifying the Structure

The most valuable commodity I know of is information.

– Gordon Gekko, Wall Street

Over the past few weeks, the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) has passed three orders[1] (SEBI Orders) in the infamous ‘WhatsApp leak’ saga that has been in the news since November 2017[2]. Holding the impugned perpetrators guilty of violating insider trading regulations, the regulator has taken significant steps in pushing the boundaries of the concepts of insider, UPSI and insider trading.


Continue Reading SEBI and WhatsApp leaks: Every link in the chain matters

Debt capital markets - a bumpy road ahead

The novel coronavirus pandemic (“Covid-19”) has brought about a new set of challenges for the Indian economy. While our economy successfully weathered the 2008 financial crisis, the current scenario has halted economic activity for most of the sectors. While the reasons for the previous and current crises are different, some trends are similar. One of these is the inability of borrowers to service debt.

The 2008 financial crisis was characterised by defaults in various debt instruments such as term loans, external commercial borrowings and FCCBs. To combat this, the Reserve Bank of India introduced a host of measures such as relaxation on restructuring of various loan accounts[1] and allowance to firms to use rupee amounts to buy back FCCBs. Simultaneously, in order to create a vibrant market for corporate bonds[2], the Securities and Exchange Board of India introduced the Securities and Exchange Board of India (Issue and Listing of Debt Securities) Regulations, 2008 (the “SEBI ILDS Regulations”).
Continue Reading Debt Capital Markets – A Bumpy Road Ahead

SEBI CONSULTATION PAPER FOR LISTED COMPANIES WITH STRESSED ASSETS - CURE FOR THE SICK COULD BE VACCINE FOR ALL 

With the slowdown in the economy and unprecedented business disruption due to Covid 19, several Indian listed companies, which were already heavily leveraged, will soon be looking at avenues for further funding to meet working capital requirements and liquidity challenges. Given the current regulatory regime surrounding raising of equity capital, it is possible that some of the over-leveraged ones may become insolvent. With a view to facilitate fund raising by such listed companies that have stressed assets, the market regulator has come up with a consultation paper, that provides certain procedural relaxations to the SEBI (Issue of Capital and Disclosures Requirements) Regulations, 2018 (ICDR Regulations) and SEBI (Substantial Acquisition of Shares and Takeovers) Regulations, 2011 (SAST Regulations).
Continue Reading SEBI Consultation Paper For Listed Companies With Stressed Assets – Cure For The Sick Could Be Vaccine For All

Current Issues in the Mutual Funds Industry

Things indeed have been less than perfect for the mutual funds industry as a result of economic slowdown as well as specific events, key among which is the value deterioration across a number of industries and asset classes. The onset of COVID-19 has served to exponentially compound these problems. The most recent victim of the current situation is Franklin Templeton India, which announced its decision to wind-up six debt schemes, citing this as the only viable option to preserve value for unitholders and enable an orderly and equitable exit for all investors.

AMFI, the mutual fund industry body, has tried to assure investors that majority of fixed income AUM is invested in superior credit quality securities and schemes have appropriate liquidity to ensure normal operations. Mutual funds are not one homogenous mass and separate schemes have different investment strategy and underlying assets, but the supervening effect of the ongoing pandemic has created such redemption pressures and corresponding lack of cash flows, that the mutual fund industry has been dealt a body blow by the ensuing demand-supply liquidity mismatch.
Continue Reading Current Issues in the Mutual Funds Industry

Innocent Tippee Liability under Insider Laws

The SEBI Insider Trading Regulations prohibit trading in securities whilst in possession of unpublished price sensitive information (UPSI). It also states that when a person holds UPSI and trades in securities, his trades would be ‘presumed’ to have been motivated by the knowledge and awareness of such information in his possession.

Given that the burden of proof is on the insider to establish that his trade was not motivated by awareness of such information, the Regulations to provide statutory defences for the insider to prove his innocence. The stated defences, which are illustrative in nature, however, do not include a circumstance where a person has received UPSI and relied on it to make a trade under the assumption that it is publicly available information. The ‘innocent recipient’ was proposed as a statutory defence in the NK Sodhi High Level Committee Report, but did not find its way into the final form of the amended regulations. This defence was meant to be available if the recipient had no reason to believe that the information in his possession was UPSI or the person who communicated it to him violated any law or confidentiality obligation. As per the report, the insider would need to prove that he did everything reasonably in his power to confirm that the information in his possession was not UPSI (i.e. exercise of diligence expected of a reasonable man) and that he traded bona fide.
Continue Reading Innocent Tippee Liability under Insider Laws

Corporate house-keeping during a crisis

Secretarial compliances, periodic reporting and disclosure requirements, programmed into the DNA of listed companies, often proceed seamlessly following protocols defined by the legal regime and industry best practices. However, with social distancing advisories changing the way in which corporate India goes to work, management and secretarial teams will need to re-assess established protocols and approach day to day internal housekeeping matters a little differently in the coming months.
Continue Reading Corporate house-keeping during a crisis