Vicarious Liability of Non-Executive Directors - A Case for Reform of Law

Context:

The vicarious liability provisions have been evolving ever since the evolution of law of torts. “Offence by companies” is a standard vicarious liability provision in most statutes, which is often used to fasten the liability on directors for the acts and omissions of the company. These vicarious liability provisions are borrowed from colonial-era laws and incorporated in our domestic legislations. As a rule, there is no concept of vicarious liability in criminal law. Such provisions imposing liability on directors for acts/ omissions of the company are present in most statutes.

The vicarious liability provisions have a standard language providing that the person-in-charge of and responsible for the conduct of the business of the company at the time of the commission of the offence, as well as other officers are liable for that offence. However, those provisions do not make a distinction between Managing Directors (“MDs”)/ Executive Directors (“EDs”) and Non-Executive Directors (“NEDs”)/ Independent Directors (“IDs”).
Continue Reading Vicarious Liability of Non-Executive Directors: A Case for Reform of Law

Arm’s Length Pricing -Navigational Tools for the Audit Committee

India has one of the most detailed set of laws and regulations governing disclosures and approvals of related party transactions (RPT) regulating both listed and unlisted companies. The provisions of Section 188 of the Companies Act, 2013 (the Act) are applicable if:

  1. a company enters into a transaction with a ‘related party’ as defined under Section 2(76) of the Act;
  2. such transaction falls under any of the categories specified under sub-clause (a) to (g) of Section 188(1) of the Act, an approval of the board of directors will be required prior to entering into such transaction; and
  3. such transaction exceeds the monetary thresholds prescribed under Rule 15(3) of the Companies (Meeting of Board and its Powers) Rules, 2014, prior approval of the shareholders will also be required by way of an ordinary resolution.

Regulation 23 of the SEBI (Listing Obligations and Disclosure Requirements) Regulations, 2015 (LODR) provides that all material RPTs require shareholder approval through an ordinary resolution and no related party entity shall vote to approve such resolutions whether the entity is a related party to the particular transaction or not. However, all RPTs, whether material or not, require approval of the audit committee.
Continue Reading Arm’s Length Pricing -Navigational Tools for the Audit Committee

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

Striking off Name of a Company - The Jurisdictional Issue

Jurisdiction is not given for the sake of the judge, but for that of the litigant

– Blaise Pascal

Recently the Delhi High Court in Money Market Services (India) Private Ltd. v. Union of India held that an order passed by Registrar of Companies (ROC) striking off the name of a Company can be challenged by way of writ petition only before the High Court, which has territorial jurisdiction over the said ROC.[1]
Continue Reading Striking off Name of a Company: The Jurisdictional Issue

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 provisions of the Companies Act, 2013 (the Act), and the rules framed thereunder, mandate companies to file requisite documents, including annual returns and financial statements, with the concerned Registrar of Companies (RoC) of their jurisdiction. Non-adherence to such provisions and non-filing of the requisite documents is an offence, exposing non-complaint companies and its directors to severe penal consequences, including fines and prosecution.

However, the records of the Ministry of Corporate Affairs (MCA) and the National Company Law Tribunals (NCLT) would clearly reveal that a lot of companies have been non-compliant with their filings. This non-compliance has been a menace to all the stakeholders involved, including, inter alia, (i) the companies and directors who have to face penal consequences for such non-compliances; (ii) the MCA and its administration who are engaged in the process of updating the records; (iii) the public/ shareholders who do not get access to the records of the companies; and (iv) the NCLT and the office of Regional Directors, which are burdened with compounding cases.


Continue Reading A Fresh Start for Companies

To battle the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the central government and the various state governments imposed a nationwide lockdown in India. Additionally, to arrest the spread of the pandemic, government authorities and corporates are promoting “work from home”, and wherever necessary to work with minimum work force. Acknowledging the difficulties faced by corporates on account of the threat posed by COVID-19, requiring social distancing in day-to-day functioning, governmental authorities have granted various exemptions and reliefs by issuing circulars and amending rules to ease compliance requirements to be complied by companies.

This blog analyses the recent reliefs and relaxations announced by the Ministry of Corporate Affairs, Government of India (MCA), and the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI), which may have an impact on financing transactions.


Continue Reading Social Distancing while approving financing transactions: MCA, SEBI Relaxations

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.
Continue Reading Claw back clauses in Employment Contracts: A new tool to fight corporate misfeasance

The ‘Appointed Date’ Conundrum – Has the MCA Now Resolved This?

‘Appointed Date’ versus ‘Effective Date’

A scheme of arrangement is usually conditional upon the satisfaction of specified conditions. The date on which the conditions to a scheme are satisfied is referred to as the ‘effective date’ of the scheme. Schemes often provide that once all conditions are satisfied, they shall be deemed to have become effective on an identified date (which is not necessarily the same as the effective date) – this is usually referred to as the ‘appointed date’ of the scheme. Accordingly, while the conditions to a scheme are satisfied on an effective date, the transactions under the scheme are deemed to have occurred on an appointed date.
Continue Reading The ‘Appointed Date’ Conundrum – Has the MCA Now Resolved This?

Vote from Home – A Positive Move for Shareholder Meetings

The Companies Act, 2013 does not contemplate shareholder meetings being held electronically. However, as social distancing becomes de rigueur and the temporary lockdown has been extended to May 3, 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it has become difficult, impractical and illegal in many cases for companies to hold shareholder meetings physically. At the same time, companies need to plough through these difficult times, and crucial decisions on matters such as fund raising and restructuring, all of which require shareholders’ approval, cannot be suspended. Responding to this dilemma, the Ministry of Corporate Affairs (MCA) has issued circulars[1] relaxing the requirement to hold physical general meetings and permitting meetings to be held remotely through electronic means.

The MCA has requested companies to hold general meetings to take decisions of urgent nature (other than for items of ordinary business[2] and items where any person has a right to be heard) through electronic voting or postal ballot, according to the procedure under Section 110 of the Companies Act, 2013 (Companies Act) and Rule 20 of the Companies (Management and Administration) Rules, 2014, and the additional measures prescribed under the circulars.
Continue Reading Vote from Home – A Positive Move for Shareholder Meetings