Extra-territorial application of India’s securities law – Has SEBI cast its net too wide?

If a connection exists, it is for the Legislature to decide how far it should go in the exercise of its powers.[1]

Introduction

The territorial application of laws made by Parliament is enshrined in Article 245 of the Constitution of India (“Constitution”). The universal presumption that laws made by a country are limited to its own territorial borders, is provided under Article 245(1) of the Constitution, which provides that “Subject to the provisions of this Constitution, Parliament may make laws for the whole or any part of the territory of India.” However, Article 245(2) of the Constitution carves out a specific exception providing that a law made by Parliament, pursuant to Article 245(1), shall not be invalidated on the ground that such a law would have extra-territorial operation. Most countries have enacted extra-territorial laws with the US being the clear leader in this regard having enacted anti-corruption law, securities laws etc. which have extra-territorial application.


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SEBI Delisting Regulations 2021

The SEBI (Delisting of Equity Shares) Regulations, 2021 (“2021 Regulations”), were notified on June 10, 2021. The new regulations do not substantially deviate from the SEBI (Delisting of Equity Shares) Regulations, 2009 (“2009 Regulations”). However, certain incremental changes are introduced that further refine and streamline the delisting process. The key changes effected by the 2021 Regulations, with specific reference to voluntary delisting offers, are as follows:


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FIG Paper (No. 7) - Cryptocurrency in India

Introduction:

In recent years, investments in cryptocurrencies have witnessed exponential growth, with growing recognition by established financial institutions across the globe and cryptocurrencies morphing from a digital payment method to an asset class for investment.
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A transition away from LIBOR – What it means for ECB lending in India

LIBOR may be the most popular acronym in the international financial markets, and rightfully so. It has for decades been the benchmark rate adopted worldwide for financial transactions ranging from loans, bonds and derivatives. Often touted as the ‘world’s most important number[1], it first made its appearance in 1969 and has since then established itself as the go to reference rate for all things money.
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FIG Papers No. 6 - Series–2 RBI Payment Regulations – 2009 to 2021 - Bank ‘nodals’ to PA PG licenses Blog

Introduction:

In our previous FIG Paper, we shared key learnings from our experience in connection with the payment aggregator and payment gateway guidelines (“PA/PG Guidelines”) issued by the Reserve Bank of India (“RBI”) on March 17, 2020. Based on representations received from various industry associations and payment intermediaries, the RBI has formalised the clarifications (initially issued on September 17, 2020) relating to the PA/PG Guidelines on March 31, 2021 (“Clarifications”).
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RBI Payment Regulations - 2009 to 2021 - Bank nodals to PA PG licenses

Introduction:

In early March 2020, a regulatory moratorium imposed on a private bank in India froze the country’s digital payments ecosystem. Many payment aggregators (“PA”) and payment gateways (“PG”) had set up nodal accounts with this bank, including others, and it raised a question on whether the customer funds pooled in those accounts were bankruptcy ‘remote’. Within 10 days, the Reserve Bank of India (“RBI”) issued the payment aggregator and gateway guidelines (“PA/PG Guidelines”) on March 17, 2020, under the Payment and Settlement Systems Act, 2007 (“PSSA”), to regulate PAs and prescribe baseline technology standards for PAs and PGs.
Continue Reading FIG Papers (No. 5 : Series -1) : RBI Payment Regulations – 2009 to 2021: Bank ‘nodals’ to PA/PG licenses! 

Indian Mutual Funds – New M&A Rules! Anu Tiwari (Partner), Ritu Sajnani (Senior Associate), Utkarsh Bhatnagar (Senior Associate) and Karthik Koragal (Associate) The Securities Exchange Board of India (“SEBI”) carried out a regulatory revamp exercise of SEBI (Mutual Funds) Regulations, 1996 (“MF Regulations”) and various circulars issued under it by way of a circular on mutual fund(s) (“MF”) issued on March 4, 2021 (“MF Circular”), effective from March 5, 2021, thereby streamlining a robust regime governing the reporting, compliance and disclosure requirements applicable to asset management company(ies) (“AMC”) and the trustee(s) of such AMCs. Reporting requirements strengthened Currently, the MF Circular requires an AMC to furnish the complete details of any indirect change in its control/ promoters of the sponsor(s) to SEBI and also notify details of a proposed change in control (whether direct or indirect) to the unitholders, by way of an email (in addition to publishing the same in newspapers. Similarly, in case of any proposed change to the fundamental attributes of a MF scheme, trustees are now mandated to obtain comments from SEBI, prior to effectuating such change. With an intent to ensure better compliance, SEBI has also expanded the scope of ‘key personnel’ of an AMC to include chief investment officer, chief risk officer, chief information security officer, chief operation officer, compliance officer, sales head, investor relation officer(s), etc. in addition to the erstwhile list of key personnel, which included the chief executive officer, fund manager(s), dealer(s) and head of other departments of the AMC. Hence, inter alia these new key personnel who are also now prohibited from carrying on self-dealing or front running activities, in addition to meeting the prescribed eligibility criteria. The revised reporting requirements extends SEBI’s regulatory prowess to monitor and bring more transparency in relation to the indirect change in control of the AMCs’ process. Relaxations and scrutiny go hand-in-hand In order to facilitate innovation in the MF space, SEBI has introduced certain relaxations like permitting employees of AMCs to participate in private placement of equity by any company, has allowed trustees to delegate its function(s) to declare/ fix a record date and decide the quantum of dividend, etc. to AMC officials. Further, trustees are now mandated to report to SEBI the MF securities dealt by them, only if a transaction exceeds INR 5 lakhs (vis-a-vis the previous threshold of INR 1 lakh). The regulator has also classified investment in non-convertible preference shares (“NCPSs”) as a ‘debt instrument’ and accordingly, limitation of a MF scheme to invest not more than 10% of its net asset value in debt instruments will also include NCPSs. The trustees now being required to obtain SEBI comments before effecting a ‘change in in the fundamental attributes of a MF scheme’ seems burden-some, as the regulator’s role, and oversight, already guarantees for the requisite checks and balances to govern the MF scheme, including for MF scheme transfers, through separate regulations and circulars in this behalf. Above is likely to add another layer to M&A deal-making, with already many layers involved, impacting deal costs and timelines, especially if a ‘new sponsor’ application may be involved, from a process, governance and unit holders’ standpoint. Albeit above ties into SEBI’s increasing focus on MF trustee’s accountability, which has hitherto been an overlooked area, given the nature and composition of MF trustee boards. Though, done with noble regulatory intent, one would have to see whether the above changes, including expansion of key personnel, further ‘spook’ trustee directors, especially independents - already an onerous position, with few upsides, especially after Calcutta High Court’s Order in the ITC / JPMorgan MF Trustees case, and SEBI’s approach qua Franklin Templeton trustees in 2020, expand the scope of potential SEBI show-cause ‘noticees’ from the current list of 7 (!), and shoot MF M&A in the knees, which was given a new lease of life recently via SEBI dropping the ‘3/ 5’ profitability criterion in Regulation 7, MF Regulations.

The Securities Exchange Board of India (“SEBI”) carried out a regulatory revamp exercise of SEBI (Mutual Funds) Regulations, 1996 (“MF Regulations”) and various circulars issued under it by way of a circular on mutual fund(s) (“MF”) issued on March 4, 2021 (“MF Circular”), effective from March 5, 2021, thereby streamlining a robust regime governing the reporting, compliance and disclosure requirements applicable to asset management company(ies) (“AMC”) and the trustee(s) of such AMCs.
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RBI’S REVISED REGULATORY FRAMEWORK FOR NBFCS

Introduction

In the backdrop of recent stress in the financial sector, especially in the speciality finance (i.e. NBFC) space, the Reserve Bank of India (“RBI”) has sought to address potential systemic risks by issuing a discussion paper on ‘Revised Regulatory Framework for NBFCs – A Scale-Based Approach’ (“Discussion Paper”) on January 22, 2021. The apex bank, through the Discussion Paper, has introduced a scale-based approach to the regulation of non-banking financial companies. Owing to their growing significance, linkages with the banking and capital markets sectors, and complexity in operations, the Discussion Paper proposes a four-tiered regulatory structure for NBFCs, based on proportionality of the NBFCs.
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RBI Working Group on Digital Lending – Policy Suggestions

The Reserve Bank of India (“RBI”), through a press release issued on January 13, 2021, has set up a working group on digital lending (“WG”), to study all aspects of digital lending activities in the regulated financial sector as well as by unregulated players so that an appropriate regulatory approach can be put in place.

The move is well-timed, given the recent turmoil witnessed in the Indian digital lending space, and comes on the back of the RBI’s December 23, 2020, public caution against unauthorised digital lending platforms/ mobile Apps and its June 24, 2020, Circular, prescribing Fair Practices Code for banks and non-banking finance companies (“NBFCs”) while sourcing loans or recovering dues through digital lending platforms.
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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).
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