Investor Issues
How SEBI treats investor associations

In the 21st December meeting, the first row around the large conference table was packed with SEBI officials and stock exchange reps, while investor associations were relegated to the second and third rows. And the chairman announced that he would leave in 10-15 minutes…

The Securities & Exchange Board of India’s (SEBI) attitude to investors is best reflected in the shoddy manner in which it conducted a meeting with representatives of accredited investor associations (IAs) on 21st December 2012. These meetings, which used to be conducted every quarter under previous SEBI chairmen have already been reduced to an exercise that is reluctantly undertaken only when there is pressure over issues such as redress of investor complaints.

 

The recent meeting with IAs on 21st December has left us surprised and confused about SEBI’s attitude to any meaningful engagement with retail investors or their representatives in the form of SEBI-accredited associations from all over the country. This was evident from the seating arrangement around the large conference table in SEBI’s meeting room. We found that the first row around the large conference table was packed with SEBI officials and representatives of stock exchanges, while we were relegated to the second and third row. This was strange, but it is not the first time this has happened. The last time this happened was during chairman M Damodaran’s tenure and this was corrected only when the representative from the Consumer Education & Research Centre objected. Mr Damodaran was gracious enough to reprimand his officers for the arrangements, nothing of that sort happened this time. Instead, sparks flew from the very beginning, not only because investor representatives (IRs) were offended by the seating but the SEBI chairman compounded it by saying, “I will leave in 10-15 minutes. Senior officials will interact with you and apprise me of the deliberations later”. Naturally sparks flew at the very outset, but what followed was unusual in every way. 

 

Ms Mala Bannerjee, who heads the Federation of Consumer Associations of Bengal, was the first speaker. She took a strong exception to the fact that the chairman planned to leave meeting in 10 minutes and castigated the cavalier manner in which the meeting had been arranged. She spoke about the poor response of SEBI’s officials to IAs and also mentioned that her organization was ignored when investor programmes were conducted in West Bengal. Ms Banerjee was especially scathing about the seating arrangement which belittled IAs by relegating them to the back-benches. “The stock exchanges talk with you daily throughout the year. You should interact with us and not push the non-profit organisations back”, said Ms Bannerjee.

 

When it was my turn to speak, I said that the chairman’s decision to leave so early is a clear indication that he and SEBI do not consider retail investors and their associations important enough to spend even half a day with them to understand ground realities. I apprised him of the fact that since 2000, IAs meetings used to be full-day affairs; in recent years, in line with the changing attitude to retail investors, they have been curtailed to half-a-day, but successive SEBI chairmen made it a point to be present for the entire period. After all, the preamble to the SEBI Act places primary emphasis on investor protection—a job where IAs play and important role.

 

I pointed out that I had made the effort to be in Mumbai only on the specific understanding that it would be an opportunity to interact with the chairman. I made it clear that in future, I would not like to attend these meetings unless the chairman intended to be present.

 

I apprised the chairman of Midas Touch Investors Association’s contribution to investor protection over the past 16 years. We have been invited to depose before the Joint Parliamentary Committee and before the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Finance. Our eight public interest litigations (PILs) include the one which forced Canara Bank to pay Rs975 crore to investor during the 1992 scam. We also took the ministry of corporate affairs to court on the “Vanishing Companies” scam which was a hard battle to convince the government about how poor supervision had allowed fly-by-night operators to raise public funds and vanish with the money. The lawsuit ultimately led to the creation of joint coordination committee in 1999, is still struggling to initiate credible action.

 

Meanwhile, retail investors have lost faith in the capital market and its regulatory system and the investor population has shrunk from two crore in 1992 when the SEBI Act was enacted to half the number after two decades. In the corresponding period, the deployment of financial household savings into the securities market has dropped from over 10% to around 2% while household savings have galloped from Rs100,000 crore to Rs15 lakh crore. This fall is all the more glaring in the face of economic growth numbers. It reflects the failure of SEBI to attract and channel investment in the securities market and reflects an emphatic vote of no confidence in its policies. I then said that it was incomprehensible that SEBI made no effort to see engagement or brain-storming with IAs. A few other IAs also spoke.

 

Later, chairman UK Sinha tried to explain the situation by saying, “Perhaps some of you are not aware of the way SEBI works and its structure. We consciously took a decision that the chairman would not be a member of the various ‘advisory’ committees set up by SEBI.” This is absolutely incorrect. First, the structure of advisory committees has been followed by several of Mr Sinha’s predecessors, yet they have treated their meetings with IAs very differently because the two simply cannot be equated. Also Mr Sinha suggested that IAs will be overawed to speak frankly in the presence of the chairman although there was no evidence of this at the meeting.

 

The logic of facilitating a frank discussion in absence of SEBI chairman shows the astounding disconnect between politicians, bureaucracy and the citizens, all too familiar in last two years. The fact is that officials should have the gumption and guts to face questions from the public in open forums. 

 

Among the issues discussed was the proposed “safety net” for investors. IAs made it clear that this seems more like a red-herring since only a small extent of the loss would be covered and allow investment bankers to lure investors by creating the impression among retail investors that their money was 100% safe. We made it clear that we are opposed to any sops, discounts or inducements for enticing retail investors. What we require is reasonable IPO pricing.

 

Multi-level marketing (MLM) schemes & collective investment schemes (CIS): Mr Sinha in his opening remarks had stated that SEBI was facing great difficulty is dealing with CIS schemes, particularly in West Bengal since the lower courts had a issued stay order on SEBI action when they had no jurisdiction under SEBI Act. He pointed out that SEBI had been forced to go into appeals in the high court; however, they did not provide any details or number of such instances. (However, Moneylife has written about MPS Greenery; ).  

 

Almost all IAs were concerned about MLM companies and some suggested that SEBI should regulate them. I brought up the case of Stockguru India, which collected nearly Rs1,000 crore by promising hefty stock market returns.

 

Moneylife (and other media organizations as well) had reported this in December 2010 and again in April 2011. SEBI should have acted on these reports. I pointed out that it was obligatory for SEBI to initiate action and impose a penalty u/s 23(g) and 23(h) of the Securities Contracts Regulation Act (SCRA). I pointedly asked: “Does SEBI have any mechanism in place to identify such cheating and take early preventive action?” To the best of my knowledge, it has no such mechanism and structure in place. Chairman Sinha merely replied that SEBI has taken action without providing any specific details.

 

* Yet another issue that came up for discussion was the non-utilisation of “Investor Protection Funds” by SEBI and “Investors Services Fund” by stock exchanges. The Bombay stock exchange (BSE) and National Stock Exchange (NSE) together have anywhere between Rs300-Rs500 crore in their investor services funds. Regional exchanges also have some funds. IAs pointed out that these should be effectively deployed for capacity building of investor associations. The chairman said that, in this, they have to keep CAG’s (Comptroller and Auditor General) objections in mind!

 

IAs formally registered our strong reservation regarding the arbitrary and non-transparent manner in which various committees (and sub-committees) are constituted by SEBI and their functioning. These committees are packed with the corporate sector representatives, industry bodies, market intermediaries and some academics pointedly leaving retail investors associations, especially the more active ones. There is no criteria for selecting representatives of IAs even after two decades of SEBI’s existence.

 

In response, Mr Sinha said that they will nominate IAs by rotation so that all the associations get representation. But if SEBI wants meaningful participation of IAs, it needs to combine merit with a policy of rotation. Mr Sinha left soon after the brief interaction with IAs.

 

A key part of the agenda was a presentation on SCORES, SEBI’s online grievance redress mechanism. We were informed that pending grievances in November 2012 has dropped to around 13,000 from 24,000 on 31st March 2012. Data of grievances received, redressed and other details were not provided. SCORES efficiency was self-appreciated. The data presented for ‘pending’ grievances is simply not credible and demonstrates an obfuscation of facts.

 

As per SEBI’s own report the unresolved grievances on 31 March 2010 & 2011 were 1,60,593 and 1,50,711 respectively. On 31 March 2012 unresolved grievances were 1,44,439. The reason for the discrepancy is that SEBI has quietly started excluding those pending grievances against whom “regulatory action viz. adjudication, direction or prosecution has been initiated”. On 31 March 2012, regulatory action was in progress with respect to 1,20,714 grievances.

 

AK Bakliwal of The Bombay Shareholders’ Association drew the attention of SEBI to the fact that companies are not annexing important schedules in their annual/abridged reports.

 

The tenor and mode of IAs meeting have undergone a significant change. Interaction by senior officials has reduced. They merely note the issues raised and say they will get back in due course. Earlier, they would engage in discussions, express their views and the chairman would, in principle at least, agree on certain matters.

 

(The author is the president of the Midas Touch Investors Association).

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COMMENTS

Dr Pankaj Gupta

4 years ago

SEBI has reduced itself to the role of corrupt Sarpanch , who doesn't have much power to punish powerful but has just enough ( power) to hackle common people. My two experiences with SEBI were pathetic to say the least. Even after bringing forth the glaring illegal, compulsive strategies adopted by the leading broking house, SEBI did nothing except a simple phone call to their compliance deptt. to call me and try persuade me for a compromise. This phone call also came after more than a month’s wait for my issue. They just don't want to look into all the glaring serious irregularities pointed by me to them (SEBI). This is very pathetic of SEBI, who just want to put label of 'cases being solved' as a numerical figure. Though the solution to the problem may be partial to the extent of 10%. The tone of the compliance officer of the company (in my case) was as if threatening me to say that the call is an opportunity for you to reach compromise or else we don't bother SEBI. We can go to court anytime and you will require arranging for lawyers etc. SEBI did nothing to any of the important issues raised like alteration of ledgers in back date. The role of the SEBI In second case was nothing better than this.
My only praise is for the associations or educator foundations like MONEYLIFE and also other investor friendly websites and associations who gave me valuable suggestions to follow such and such path and as to how to get myself heard with big wigs like SEBI, NSE, BSE. I must specially thank Ms. Sucheta Dalal , who personally answered all the queries in my e mails and helped me reach a stage where i could make myself heard to the broking house or even in front of (so called, investor friendly) SEBI. This much help at the time of need to an investor by IAs is nothing short of a lifeline.
Thanks Moneylife , Ms Sucheta and all other numerous IAs and selfless individuals who work day and night , maintain web sites through not so easy means and still take risk to educate and protect harried investors at the cost of offending those officers and chairman whom they have to face and deal with ; and , also importantly at the cost of forfeiture of any Aid that they may have got , had they been compliant enough.

REPLY

Dr Pankaj Gupta

In Reply to Dr Pankaj Gupta 4 years ago

There is a small mistake in the third line which read like " Even after bringing forth the glaring illegal, compulsive strategies adopted by the leading broking house, SEBI did nothing except a simple phone call to their compliance deptt. to call me and try persuade me for a compromise."
while it should be read as " Even after bringing forth the glaring illegal, compulsive strategies adopted by the leading broking house, SEBI did nothing except a simple phone call to the broking house compliance deptt. to ask them to call me and try persuade me for a compromise."

V K JAIN

4 years ago

We are deeply pained and offended by Shri Vaibhav Dhoka’s sweeping statement, given without any basis “that IAs are formed to corner money from Investors protection fund. And SEBI wants to make them dumb on receipt of fund. Investors have no faith in SEBI, Stock exchanges and also IAs.”

We hereby call upon Shri Dhoka to substantiate the allegations and aspersions made by him, impliedly against all IAs and particularly against Midas Touch Investors Association. His response shall be forwarded to our counsel for advise and further action.( We are obviously not holding any brief for IAs other than ours.) Shri Dhaka is requested to give his postal address for further correspondence.

It is obvious that Shri Dhoka has made these wild allegations without knowing, and, caring to look into the enormous work Midas Touch Investors Association has done for investor protection and it’s positive contribution in improving the systems during last 16 years. It was mostly carried out through voluntary work, members contribution and without outside and government funding. Such wild and sweeping statements is a disservice to public and investors interest and are likely to act as a deterrent to those persons/organizations fighting ills of the system against all odds for larger good at enormous sacrifice and, at times, personal risk.

We shall post all developments in the matter, if any, on Moneylife for readers information.

Virendra Jain
President
Midas Touch Investors Association

http://www.mtia.in

mm sundram

4 years ago

Investors have no faith in SEBI Stock exchanges and also IAs. Mr Vaibhav Dhoka is correct that IAs formed to corner monies. In my opinion it is ok if some of IA's after monies held in the SEBI and SE [investors monies collected from investors and traders of stocks] since SEBI is not doing anything to the investors or stakeholders while enjoying the public and tax payer's monies. There is no protection as said in the PREAMBLE and no investor is going to get benefited because of sebi. SEBI came into being after the activities and style of SEC, US wherein the law of American is watertight but here ??????????????? investors in India should suffer.

Suiketu Shah

4 years ago

This is why India Inc needs Moneylife more than ever.Even SEBi's protection of investors and its intentions in this regards doesnot seem sincere.Congrats on ml's upcoming 3rd anniversary.

Suketu

Bosco Menezes

4 years ago

Very sad, but why am i not surprised ?

Vaibhav Dhoka

4 years ago

In India time required to any get any complaint with any regulator organisation or courts is unpredictable.Here it is seen that IAs are formed to corner money from Investors protection fund.And SEBI wants to make them dumb on receipt of fund.Investors have no faith in SEBI Stock exchanges and also IAs.

REPLY

Sucheta Dalal

In Reply to Vaibhav Dhoka 4 years ago

Dr Dhoka ... I am surprised at your comment. As a regular reader of Moneylife you will have read that money from investor protection funds are cornered by institutes of CAs, company secretaries etc. We have been campaigning about this, but get little support from you the investor.
Very negligible sums are ever given to genuine investor associations. Shady ones are accredited when they have no truck with investor issues.
In fact, check out the work of Midas Touch Investors association- the helpline it was running was unceremoniously closed.

The NSE and BSE only spend crores of rupees supporting big media which gives them publicity and suppresses negative news.
The BSE has even used the investor funds for lectures by spiritual gurus and a wide range of seminars by industry bodies.
Mr Jain was asking for transparency in the use of funds.
You may complain but unless you join the fight, I think your comment is completely unfair and sweeping.
In your own case, we spent enormous time and effort -- but it has reached a stage when you need to go to court. Are you willing to do that? Court cases require large resources, volunteers and public spirited lawyers. Very few people, even after retirement, want to volunteer even their time in a systematic manner.
Lets look inwards before casting aspersions.

240p FLV

In Reply to Sucheta Dalal 4 years ago

Thanks for the facts. It is so easy to throw mud without taking the trouble to know facts. Moneylife would not have given this article prominence if IAs were all grabbing money. Those who are criticising these IAs have no belief in Moneylife's filtering process. Incidentally, is Moneylife Foundation a registered IA with Sebi? What has been its experience?

Home ministry refuses to reveal names recommended for Padma Awards 2013

Till three years back, MHA was revealing names of all recommended persons for Padma awards together with names of recommending persons or bodies under RTI. But this year it has refused to reveal names of those recommended for Padma Awards 2013. What it is trying to hide?

Amid reports that yesteryear's superstar Rajesh Khanna may conferred the country’s second highest civilian award Padma Vibhushan, it has not come to light that the ministry of home affairs (MHA) is shrinking transparency year after year about selection-procedure of these awards.

 

According to a reply received by Subhash Chandra Agrawal under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, this year the MHA has refused to reveal names of those recommended for the Padma awards. “Till three years back, the MHA had a healthy practice of revealing names of all recommended persons for the Padma awards together with names of recommending persons/bodies under RTI queries. Thereafter the ministry discontinued practice of recommending persons,” the RTI activist said.

 

Apart from Khanna, who passed away on 18th July, renowned filmmaker of ‘Sholay’ fame Ramesh Sippy is likely to be given Padma Shri on the eve of Republic Day this month, official sources told PTI.

 

On 26th December, a high level committee, which includes cabinet secretary Ajit Seth, principal secretary to prime minister Pulok Chatterjee, Union home secretary RK Singh, actor Ratna Pathak Shah, scientist Anil Kakodkar, shortlisted the names of this year’s Padma awardees at its meeting.

 

The names of awardees will be declared on 25 January 2013 after the approval from prime minister Manmohan Singh. Names of Khanna and Sippy were recommended by the ministry of information and broadcasting, sources said.

 

Here are the points for which RTI Activist Agrawal sought information and the reply provided by Central Public Information Officer (CPIO)...

 

1. Last date of receipt of nominations for Padma Awards 2013?

CPIO: Last date for receipt of nominations for Padma Awards 2013 was 20 November 2012

2. Last date of receipt of nominations for Padma Awards 2012?

CPIO: Last date for receipt of nominations for Padma Awards 2013 was 20 November 2011

3. Was there some change in last date for receipt of nominations for Padma Awards 2013 from earlier years including in the year 2012?

CPIO: No

4. If yes, copies of file-notings/documents/correspondence etc on changing last date for receipt of nominations for Padma Awards 2013 from that in earlier years

CPIO: In view of point 3 above, does not arise

5. Are some more changes made in respect of deciding Padma Awards for 2013?

CPIO: No

6. If yes, please provide details together with related file-notings/documents/correspondence etc on making such changes

CPIO: In view of point 5 above, does not arise

7. Is it true that some objections were received at MHA against Padma Awards awarded to certain individuals in the year 2012 also because of non-competence of concerned persons for Padma Awards like also including Arun Firodia who was a wilful defaulter in case of borrowings made from banks as also referred in my RTI application dated 13.08.2012 (wrongly written as 13.03.2012?)

8. If yes, complete information together with related file-notings/ documents/ correspondence etc on remedial steps take to prevent undeserving elements being awarded with Padma Awards?

9. If yes, complete information together with related correspondence

CPIO: (Point 7 to 9) Some objections have been received on conferment of Padma Shri on Shri Arun Firodia. No consolidated report is maintained by this ministry. No action is taken/ proposed to change the Padma Awards procedure on basis of complaints/objections against Padma awards to individuals. (Read Should a wilful defaulter be awarded “Padma Shri” by the government?)

10. Complete list of nominations for Padma Awards 2013 having reached to Union home ministry by the stipulated last date of receiving such nominations also mentioning names of those recommending such nominations, authority through which MHA received such nominations and dates on which such nominations reached separately to recommending authorities and to MHA.

11. Names of members of 'Search Committee' formed to recommend for Padma Awards 2013.

12. Names considered by “Search Committee” for being recommended before Awards Committee for Padma Awards 2013.

13. Names of nominees recommended by “Search Committee” for Padma Awards 2013.

14. Days and time duration on which “Search Committee” met to finalise nominations.

15. Minutes of meetings held by the “Search Committee”.

CPIO: (Points 10 to 15) The procedure for selection of Padma Awards 2013 is under process. Hence the information sought cannot be provided at this stage.

16. Any other related details.

CPIO: Nil.

17. File notings on movement of this RTI petition as well.

CPIO: Relevant file noting comprises one page. Applicant is requested to submit a fee of Rs2 @ Rs2 per page as photocopying charge in favour of the Accounts Officer, MHA.

 

Not satisfied with the reply, Mr Agrawal on 22 December 2012 filed first appeal with the Appellate Authority. He said, “…Rather names of recommended ones and of those recommending should be put on website (by the MHA) so that members of public knowing adverse features of recommended persons may inform the authorities. Likewise public should also know names persons recommending such undeserving recommended personalities. Complete process of selection of Padma awardees including minutes of meetings of Search and Award committees should be put on the website after 26th January."   

 

Coming back to Rajesh Khanna, also a Congress MP from New Delhi constituency from 1992 to 1996, he was never given the Padma award in his lifetime, whereas most of his contemporaries, including Dharmendra, Dev Anand, Shashi Kapoor, Amitabh Bachchan, Dilip Kumar, Hema Malini and Waheeda Rehman, had got one or the other category of Padma awards over the years.

 

Similarly, producer-director Sippy (65), too, would be a late entrant of the Padma hall of fame, if the government finally selects him for this award. Many producers and directors of his generation have been conferred with the Padma awards through the years.

User

COMMENTS

MAZUMDAR

4 years ago

About Padma awards ,similar reply was received by me from MHA-GOI
who are maintaining secrecy unnecessarily.
I am happy that they are ready to part with file notings atleast at a later stage.Earlier they said that "there are no remarks ,
notings , comments for awarding or refusing Padma awards.
I only wish those who really deserve get them and there is no lobbying.

MAZUMDAR-Sscunderabad.

HSBC Managed Solutions: Avoid it

Hybrid schemes investing in gold have not performed well in the past for obvious reasons. And the fund management at HSBC Mutual Fund has been particularly bad

HSBC Mutual Fund plans to launch an open-ended fund of funds scheme—HSBC Managed Solutions India. The scheme would have three different plans, all three of which will invest in a hybrid portfolio of stocks. The growth plan would take on high risk and invest in a portfolio with a high allocation to equity schemes (for details on asset allocation, see table). The remaining part of the portfolio will be spread across debt schemes, gold ETFs (Exchange Traded Funds) and units of overseas schemes. The balanced plan would have a lower allocation to equity schemes and the investment in debt schemes would increase to a maximum of 60%. Here again the scheme would invest a part of it portfolio in gold ETFs and overseas schemes.
 

The conservative plan, as the name suggests, would invest only up to a maximum of 20% in equity schemes, the debt portion would range from 70%-100%. The scheme would also invest up to a maximum of 10% in gold ETFs. We have done an analysis on hybrid schemes in the past and the results have shown that such schemes have not put up a great performance in the past. Not only this, HSBC as a fund house has a poor performance track record.

 

Plan

Asset Allocation

Minimum

Maximum

Managed
Solutions India –
Growth

Equity Schemes

30%

90%

Debt Schemes & Money Market instruments

10%

35%

Gold Exchange Traded Funds

0%

10%

Units of Overseas Funds

0%

25%

Managed
Solutions India –
Balanced

Equity Schemes

10%

70%

Debt Schemes & Money Market instruments

30%

60%

Gold Exchange Traded Funds

0%

10%

Units of Overseas Funds

0%

20%

Managed
Solutions India –
Conservative

Equity Schemes

0%

20%

Debt Schemes & Money Market instruments

70%

100%

Gold Exchange Traded Funds

0%

10%

 

Last year we had shown that schemes which had an allocation to equity, debt and gold have performed poorly. (Read: Hybrid Funds: Adding gold did not help). Just half of them were able to outperform their composite benchmark. Having gold as an investment is risky, apart from which investors have to decide how much they can put in such a fund and how much returns it is expected to generate. Too many complex and global factors influence the price of gold. During a period of economic prosperity, gold can go down quite a bit in a continuous fashion. Yet there are many fund houses which have filed offer documents to launch more of such schemes.
 

Schemes of HSBC Mutual Fund have regularly come up in our performance analysis of equity schemes for all the wrong reasons. Some of its schemes have performed poorly in the last few years. In the past one year when the Sensex rallied by over 20%, three of its five schemes—HSBC India Opportunities Fund, HSBC Equity Fund and HSBC Dynamic Fund underperformed not only the category average but their respective benchmarks as well. The schemes returned an annualised monthly mean of 20.67%, 20.14% and 19.01% compared to their benchmarks that returned over 24%. The only schemes that marginally outperformed the benchmark were the mid-cap and small-cap schemes—HSBC Midcap Equity Fund and HSBC Small Cap Fund with an annualised monthly mean return of 35.14% and 32.86% compared to the benchmark returns of 28.51% and 25.68% respectively.

 

Other details of the scheme:
 

Benchmark
 

Growth plan: Composite Index constituting 80% of BSE 200 Index and 20% of CRISIL Composite Bond Index.
 

Balanced plan: CRISIL Balanced Fund Index.
 

Conservative plan: Composite Index constituting of 90% into CRISIL Composite Bond Index and 10% of BSE 200 Index.
 

Entry and Exit Load: Nil.
 

To read mutual fund analysis on Moneylife, please click here.

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