Lavasa project unauthorized: Environment ministry

New Delhi: The environment ministry today held that the controversial Lavasa housing project near Pune is unauthorized and directed the Lavasa Corporation Limited (LCL) to maintain status-quo at the construction site, reports PTI.

The ministry, however, said it is prepared to consider the project on merits subject to imposition of penalties, creation of an Environmental Restoration Fund (ERF), formulation of a comprehensive Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and the management plan, an order released by the ministry said.

“....The LCL project is in violation of EIA Notifications....the construction is unauthorized and there has been environmental degradation,” it said.

The terms and conditions include payment of a substantial penalty for the violation of environmental laws, which is incontrovertible, and creation of an ERF by the LCL which would be managed by an independent body with various stakeholders under the overall supervision of the ministry.

The ministry also put imposition of stringent terms and conditions to ensure no further environmental degradation takes place and that any degradation that has already occurred would be rectified within a time-bound schedule.


Govt mulls strict norms for wealth management advisors

New Delhi: The government is pooling in its regulatory resources to frame a comprehensive rule-book for wealth management advisors and has sought inputs for the same from the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) and other financial sector regulators, reports PTI.

The move follows an estimated Rs400 crore fraud allegedly perpetuated by a relationship manager at the Gurgaon branch of Citibank and initial probe into the matter pointing towards various loopholes in existing regulations.

Besides RBI and SEBI, other financial sector regulators, namely commodity regulator Forward Markets Commission (FMC), insurance watchdog Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority (IRDA) and pension fund regulator Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority (PFRDA), will also be roped in to formulate the all-encompassing wealth management guidelines.

After their initial probe into the Citibank case, banking regulator RBI and capital market watchdog SEBI have felt the need for stricter regulations for wealth management advisors, given the huge surge in the size of assets managed by them.

Although there are no official figures for it, the size of wealth management industry is pegged at about $1 trillion—nearly double the size a couple of years ago.

Sources said that the existing practices and regulations for wealth management space from all the regulators will be collated to frame the final guidelines and an announcement to this effect could be made in the Parliament during annual Union Budget presentation next month.

The issue is likely to be discussed in the next meeting of the newly constituted Financial Stability and Development Council (FSDC), a high-level body authorised to deliberate on inter-regulatory coordination matters, sources said.

The first meeting of FSDC was held late last month and was attended by the finance minister as also chiefs of RBI, SEBI and IRDA among others.

Wealth managers, who mostly act as investment advisors for high net-worth individuals (HNIs), are currently regulated by different regulators as per the sectors in which they are offering their services.

However, there are no comprehensive rules to regulate the wealth managers for services across various sectors such as banking, markets, insurance, commodity and pension funds.

After the Harshad Mehta scam in 1992, RBI banned banks’ portfolio management services. Since then, banks are limiting their wealth management business to advising their wealthy clients without taking custody of the capital or assets.

RBI has now asked banks about their wealth management practices and whether they or their relationship managers get the power of attorney from the clients, sources said.

SEBI does not allow brokers to insist on PoAs from their clients and might suggest the same for bankers and others.

As such, the portfolio management services in the capital market are regulated by SEBI, but these regulations do not cover asset classes such as fixed deposits and other banking products, insurance, commodity and pension funds.


ICCI Bank to allow withdrawals up to Rs1,000 at merchant outlets

Mumbai: The country’s largest private sector lender ICICI Bank today introduced cash withdrawal facility for customers for withdrawing up to Rs1,000 at point of sale (PoS) terminals, with the option to buy or not buy at merchant outlets, reports PTI.

ICICI is the first lender to offer this facility in the country, the bank said in a release here. At present, cash withdrawal using a plastic card is available only at automated teller machines (ATMs).

The new facility will be available for all ICICI Bank debit card holders who can withdraw up to Rs1,000 a day as per Reserve Bank of India (RBI) guidelines, with or without associated purchase transactions at PoS terminals, the bank said in a statement here today.

Launching the facility, managing director and chief executive Chanda Kochhar said, “ICICI Bank continues to be at the forefront of offering new functionalities and convenience to customers by leveraging technology. The launch of cash withdrawals at PoS terminals will create a new mode of access to financial services, which not only enhances customer service but can also be leveraged for financial inclusion.”

The ability to offer cash is likely to be attractive to merchants, as it means they can reduce the risk and cost associated with managing cash.

ICICI Bank has consolidated assets of over $115 billion as of end September. It has subsidiaries in the insurance space, securities brokerage, mutual funds and private equity. The bank is present in 18 countries.


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