(The following post is contributed by Yogesh Chande, an advocate
practising in Mumbai)
SEBI’s whole time member in an order dated 26 March 2012 (Order), has revoked the directions which were issued by an interim order dated 8 March 2010 (which has been discussed earlier) against the entities mentioned in paragraph 4 of the Order. One of the issues which required to be examined by the whole time member was a reference received by SEBI from RBI as regards incorrect disclosure made by the erstwhile listed bank (Bank) regarding the shareholding pattern of the promoter group of the Bank.
Interestingly, in paragraph 9 of the Order the SEBI whole time member has observed as follows in relation to the incorrect shareholding of the said entities:
The second issue to be examined is whether any such attempt at camouflaging the real level of share holding by promoters should be considered as a serious, very serious or fatal threat to the securities market. Again, as a baseline, the securities regulations are disclosure based and the securities market regulator does expect that all disclosures should be true and fair. I am of the opinion that such an offence would have been considered as very serious or fatal if the wrongful disclosures would have led genuine investors into trades that would eventually expose them to much greater risk. I have noted that there is no allegation as to any price or volume manipulation by the promoters. Therefore, I am of the opinion that purely from a securities market point of view, the severity of the offence could be considered not very grave.
While there may not be any allegation as to any price or volume manipulation by the promoters, it is possible to argue that an incorrect disclosure of shareholding amounts to indulging in fraudulent and unfair trade practice, thereby misleading the investors and depriving of correct information at the relevant point of time to the shareholders and investors.
The words underlined above could be a possible defence available going forward to companies/promoters in cases where shareholding is incorrect and there is no allegation of any price manipulation, notwithstanding that the incorrect reporting of shareholding was deliberate.
– Yogesh Chande