Financial Regulatory Practice

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”).
Continue Reading FIG Papers (No. 6: Series–2) RBI Payment Regulations – 2009 to 2021: Bank ‘nodals’ to PA/PG licenses!

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.
Continue Reading FIG Papers (No.4 : Series – 2): Indian Mutual Funds – New M&A Rules!

 Indian Mutual Funds – M&A Wave

The Securities and Exchange Board of India (“SEBI”) recently approved amendments to the SEBI (Mutual Funds) Regulations, 1996 (“MF Regulations”) at its December 16, 2020 board meeting, notified on February 4, 2021 through the MF Regulations by way of the SEBI (Mutual Funds) (Amendment) Regulations, 2021, with effect from March 5, 2021.

Currently, a Mutual Fund (“MF”) ‘sponsor’ is required to have a ‘sound track record’ i.e. having profits  in 3 out of the last 5 years, including the fifth year. Recognising the role of emerging tech/ fintech companies in the Indian financial services space and to facilitate MF innovation/ geographic penetration, SEBI relaxed the above profit criterion for sponsors. Going forward, MF sponsors who do not meet the above, would still be eligible to, either set up a new, or acquire an existing, MF asset management company (“AMC”) and trustee company, if it has a minimum net-worth of INR 1 billion as contribution towards the AMC’s net-worth, which is required to be maintained till the sponsor makes profits for 5 consecutive financial years.
Continue Reading FIG Papers (No. 3: Series – 1) : Indian Mutual Funds – M&A Wave!

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.
Continue Reading FIG Papers (No. 2) : RBI’s Revised Regulatory Framework for NBFCs : Industry Implications

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.
Continue Reading FIG Papers (No. 1) : RBI Working Group on Digital Lending – Policy Suggestions

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.

Revised Framework for Core Investment Companies – Tightening the Screws

Introduction

The Reserve Bank of India (“RBI”) has modified the regulatory landscape applicable to core investment companies (“CICs”), as per its circular dated August 13, 2020 (“Revised Framework”), in order to ensure stability of the financial system and address systemic risks posed by inter-connectedness of CICs and their group companies. In contrast to the light-touch regulation issued exactly a decade ago on August 12, 2010, the Revised Framework imposes far more stricter norms.

In furtherance to its announcement in the Statement on Development and Regulatory Policies issued on June 6, 2019, along with the Second Bi-Monthly Monetary Policy for the year 2019-20, the RBI constituted a working group under the chairmanship of Mr. Tapan Ray (non-executive chairman, Central Bank of India and former secretary, Ministry of Corporate Affairs) (“Working Group”) to review the regulatory and supervisory framework applicable to CICs. The Working Group issued its report in November 2019 and the Revised Framework has now been issued based on the recommendations of the Working Group.
Continue Reading Revised Framework for Core Investment Companies – Tightening the Screws?

Recent amendments to the insider trading regime

Since overhauling the insider trading regime with the introduction of the SEBI (Prohibition of Insider Trading) Regulations, 2015 (“PIT Regulations”), the Securities and Exchange Board of India (“SEBI”) has continually sought to fine tune and tweak the regulations through amendments in 2018 and 2019. On July 17, 2020, SEBI notified the Securities and Exchange Board of India (Prohibition of Insider Trading) (Amendment) Regulations, 2020 (“PIT Amendment”), to introduce further changes to the PIT Regulations.
Continue Reading Recent Amendments to the Insider Trading Regime

Mutual Funds and Alternative Investments - Stewardship Code

Introduction

On December 24, 2019, Securities and Exchange Board of India (“SEBI”) released a circular setting up a stewardship code for Asset Management Companies (“AMCs”), Mutual Funds (“MFs”) and all the categories of Alternative Investment Funds (“AIFs”) investing in listed Indian companies (“Stewardship Code” or “Code”). In keeping with global trends, SEBI has made it necessary for the power wielding cash-rich institutional investors, to act in accordance with the responsibilities that invariably accompany and behoove such powers and formulate a policy adopting the principles enshrined in the Code.

The Stewardship Code prescribes certain principles which, aim at enhancing the responsibilities of the AMCs/ AIFs to protect the interests of their investors/beneficiaries. The requirements pertaining to the Stewardship Code shall come into effect on April 1, 2020.
Continue Reading Being Responsible Corporate Citizens – How Mutual Funds and Alternative Investment Funds will Rise Up to the Stewardship code