SEBI to discuss NSDL’s role in IPO scam at its next board meeting

The committee, comprising of the then SEBI board members G Mohan Gopal and V Leeladhar, was constituted in 2008 to look into NSDL’s role in the IPO scam and it found various lapses on the part of the depository, as also the SEBI itself

New Delhi: The Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) is set to reopen its probe into multi-crore initial public offer (IPO) scam of 2003-2006, after more than a year of declaring as ‘null and void’ the charges made by its own committee against depository NSDL and others in the matter, reports PTI.

SEBI will discuss afresh in its next board meeting on 30th June a two-member committee’s investigation report on the scam, except the part where the market regulator itself was accused of failing in its regulatory role, sources said.

The committee, comprising of the then SEBI board members G Mohan Gopal and V Leeladhar, was constituted in 2008 to look into NSDL’s role in the IPO scam and it found various lapses on the part of the depository, as also the SEBI itself.

SEBI declared the findings as ‘null and void’ on the ground that the committee had breached its mandate in making these charges.

However, SEBI has now agreed to revisit the matter after an intervention by the Supreme Court.

Subsequently, the committee’s findings would come alive again at SEBI’s next board meeting, but the regulator would consider the contents of the report as ‘recommendations and suggestions’ rather than a stricture against any entity, including SEBI, sources said.

The issue may still open a Pandora’s box, as the charges were made against NSDL for a period when it had CB Bhave as its chief, while SEBI declared the two-member committee’s probe into the matter as ‘non-existent’ at a time when Mr Bhave was serving as chairman of the regulatory authority.

While Mr Bhave had rescued himself from the meetings whenever the NSDL matter was discussed, it has been still alleged in various court petitions that he might have influenced the decision of other SEBI board members.

Mr Bhave served as SEBI chairman for three years till 17 February 2011. Prior to joining SEBI, he was heading NSDL, the leading national depository that enables holding of shares and other securities in demat or electronic format.

NSDL had first come under scanner in 2006 in connection with the IPO scam, wherein various entities had fraudulently cornered shares reserved for retail investors and sold them later after the listing.

The depository was accused of not following best practices to detect opening of thousands of fictitious accounts in the name of retail investors for share allotment in IPOs between 2003 and 2006.

After investigating into the matter, the Mohan Gopal committee submitted in December 2008 that NSDL failed in its duty and also made adverse remarks about the manner in which SEBI had handled the issue of IPO scam.

The matter reached the Supreme Court earlier this year after a special leave petition was filed in the apex court against SEBI’s rejection of the committee report.

The court expressed its unhappiness at the outright rejection of the report and asked SEBI on 28th March to reply on whether it would revisit its decision to give a clean chit to NSDL.

Subsequently, SEBI called a special board meeting on 26th April, wherein it decided to reconsider the Mohan Gopal committee's report.

SEBI informed the Supreme Court about this decision on 9th May, after which the court listed the matter for further hearing in August.

The apex court also made it clear that it was up to SEBI to accept or reject the findings of the committee.

“The sub-committee has only made some observations and not made any orders against SEBI,” the bench had said adding that it was mere suggestion in nature hence they were not binding on SEBI.

Sources said that SEBI is of the view that the committee’s report could be implemented if the strictures passed against the regulator itself and aspersions casted on its working were dropped.

The contents of the report would be taken into account as recommendations and suggestions made for improving the policy framework at SEBI and in the capital market, they added.

In the meantime, it recently became public through a RTI (Right to Information) query that Mr Mohan Gopal wrote to the prime minister in December 2010 that SEBI board abused its powers to protect Mr Bhave from facing an independent inquiry with respect to his actions as NSDL chairman during the IPO scam.

Mr Mohan Gopal had served as an independent board member of SEBI, while Mr Leeladhar was on its board as an RBI nominee.

The PMO had forwarded Mr Mohan Gopal’s letter to the finance ministry, which in turn forwarded the same to the SEBI, but did not get a reply despite three reminders.


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