Financial Regulatory Practice

Revised norms for foreign portfolio investors SEBI

The norms surrounding foreign portfolio investors have undergone continuous changes and tweaks since liberalisation. The framework introduced by Central Government was first consolidated and expanded upon by the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) under the SEBI (Foreign Institutional Investors) Regulations, 1995 (1995 Regulations).

A little under a decade later, in 2014, SEBI took steps to consolidate the categories of investors previously accessing Indian capital markets – i.e., foreign institutional investors, sub-accounts and qualified foreign investors – into a single class known as ‘foreign portfolio investors’ (FPIs). SEBI also delegated the responsibility of registering such FPIs to designated depository participants (DDPs). Multiple questions arising out of the new regime were subsequently answered by SEBI in a series of frequently asked questions (FAQs), updated from time to time. The 2014 Regulations also incorporated concepts such as opaque structures and a scope of investor group, which did not find a mention in the 1995 Regulations but were introduced through notifications and instructions from SEBI.

Five years later, SEBI has issued revised norms for FPIs in terms of the SEBI (Foreign Portfolio Investors) Regulations, 2019 (2019 Regulations) with a number of changes (as suggested by the committee headed by Mr. HR Khan), some to concepts dating back to the regime under the 1995 Regulations. The 2019 Regulations also consolidate the extensive guidance and requirements prescribed by SEBI by way of amendments to the 2014 Regulations as well as circulars and FAQs issued thereunder.

This post discusses some of the key aspects of the 2019 Regulations.
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Insider Trading Hotline SEBI - Informant Mechanism

In our previous blog post, dated June 12, 2019, we discussed the Securities Exchange Board of India’s (SEBI) efforts to institutionalise an informant mechanism for insider trading, through its discussion paper released in June 2019 (Discussion Paper).

The regulator has now formalised this into law through a recent amendment to the Insider Trading Regulations, which came after a SEBI board meeting approved the informant mechanism scheme on August 21 of last month. Interestingly, while the publicly available agenda of the SEBI board meeting states that it had received comments from certain entities on the Discussion Paper, these comments are not publicly available and are stated to have been excised for reasons of confidentiality.
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 Securities Law Enforcement - Calibrating the Discipline of Penalty Imposition

Equipped with broad statutory powers, the Securities Exchange Board of India (SEBI) has been hard at work for the past 30 years, shouldering the herculean task of managing the Indian securities market, through both regulation and enforcement. Naturally, to help SEBI respond to and deal with evolving challenges, its powers, specifically those under the Securities Contracts (Regulation) Act, 1956 (SCRA) and the SEBI Act, 1992 (SEBI Act), have been continuously at play, allowing it to mete out a wide range of penalties, both monetary and substantive. SEBI’s exercise of such powers, in its capacity as a quasi-judicial authority, has increasingly become a subject-matter of appellate interest, on questions of both jurisdictional remit and proportionality of penal action.
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SEBI’s Latest Discussion Paper on Insider Trading Regulations

Prosecuting insider trading cases has always been a challenge for the Securities Exchange Board of India (SEBI). Primary evidence is difficult to come by, which impacts success rates as well as investigation timelines.

On June 10, 2019, SEBI released a discussion paper (Discussion Paper) proposing amendments to the SEBI (Prohibition of Insider Trading) Regulations, 2015 (Insider Trading Regulations) to establish systems and processes (both within listed companies, as well as, at SEBI) that incentivise individuals to report insider trading violations, if they come to their knowledge. In terms of the Discussion Paper, the informant may be rewarded up to INR 1 crore (approx. USD 150,000) if SEBI undertakes disgorgement of at least INR 5 crores (approx. USD 0.72 million) as a result of any action taken on the basis of true, credible and original information.
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SEBI’s Framework for Innovation Sandbox - Fintech

Amidst the fast-paced growth of the fintech industry in India, financial regulators in the country have been swift to recognise each such development and keep pace with the market. One particularly interesting development is the global adoption of regulatory sandboxes.

From 2016, a range of committees constituted by different financial regulators began to advocate adoption of regulatory sandboxes, drawing from success stories in other jurisdictions.[1] But 2019 marks a significant moment, as three of India’s prominent financial regulators have rolled-out either draft or final frameworks on regulatory sandboxes for fintech.[2]

The frameworks seek to spur fintech innovation in India and have been welcomed by all stakeholders alike. The framework released by the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) adopts a particularly holistic approach towards regulation of many different aspects of a sandbox. In this post, we seek to critique the ‘Framework for Innovation Sandbox’, released by SEBI on May 20, 2019 (Sandbox Framework).
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RBI’s Fintech Sandbox Proposal Startups

Technological innovation in the financial space, popularly known as ‘fintech’, has been at the forefront of regulatory thinking in recent times and is widely considered to be the panacea to the thorny issues of financial inclusion and ease of access to financial products/solutions, etc.

In 2018, the inter-regulatory Working Group (WG) set up by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) to review the granular aspects of fintech and its implications, released a report being the ‘Report of the Working Group on FinTech and Digital banking’. One of the WG’s key recommendations was the introduction of an appropriate framework for the creation of a regulatory sandbox (RS) where the RBI could provide the requisite regulatory guidance to test products in a controlled environment.
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Prohibition of Insider Trading Regulations 2015 in India , Amendments

The Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) ended the year with a bang by issuing a number of notifications on December 31, including the SEBI (Prohibition of Insider Trading) (Amendment) Regulations, 2018 (PIT Amendment Regulations). The PIT Amendment Regulations come into force on April 1, 2019 and will have significant impact on the manner in which listed companies and intermediaries navigate the market conduct framework.
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Reserve bank of India - RBI vs Indian Government

At the heart of any modern democracy lies the doctrine of separation of powers, which ensures division of responsibilities and also structurally validates a key principle of governance, i.e., allowing each institution to function autonomously, while still maintaining accountability within the larger legislative framework. In codifying its own unique (and somewhat limited) interpretation of this doctrine, the Constitution of India delineates functions of the Union and the states, allowing Parliament to legislate on the functions of key agencies such as the Central Bureau of Investigation and the Reserve Bank of India (Entry 38, Seventh Schedule).
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