HSBC MF gets off SEBI hook with a mere warning
Moneylife Digital Team 26 April 2010

Despite finding the fund house contravening regulations, the market watchdog has let it off the hook with a mere warning, on technical grounds

Market regulator Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) has let off HSBC Mutual Fund, HSBC Asset Management (India) Pvt Ltd (HSBC AMC) and its chief executive officer with a mere warning, despite finding them contravening regulations.

In an order, SEBI's full-time director Dr KM Abraham said, “I hereby warn the Board of Trustees of HSBC Mutual Fund, HSBC Asset Management (India) Pvt Ltd and its chief executive officer that they shall strictly comply with the law governing their conduct and business of mutual funds in the securities market.” 

The matter relates to the HSBC Gilt Fund. It was alleged that in January 2009, HSBC AMC changed fundamental attributes of the scheme without following procedures. In a letter dated 3 March 2009, the AMC told the market regulator that it has made certain changes in the scheme. HSBC AMC said that it changed the name of the scheme to HSBC Guild Fund from HSBC Guild Fund-Short Term Plan, changed the benchmark index to 'I Sec Composite Index' from 'I Sec Si-Bex' and modified duration of the portfolio not exceeding 15 years from 'normally not exceeding 7 years'.

Following the changes, some investors complained to SEBI that their value of investments in the scheme had come down. They also alleged that the same was because of the abrupt changes in the investment objective such as shifting the investments from ultra short-term to long-term bonds of the scheme in January 2009.

There were some media reports which said that the Fund had shifted about 80% of its assets from ultra short-term to long-term bonds in a single day. The AMC cited liquidity crisis and the corresponding volatility of the assets under management, as the reasons for increasing the duration.

The AMC had launched a scheme called HSBC Gilt Fund during the year 2003. The scheme is an open-ended scheme, which sought to generate reasonable returns through investments in government securities (also referred to as G-Secs). The said scheme had two plans—Long Term Plan and the Short Term Plan. In the offer document, it was mentioned that the Short Term Plan was suitable for investors seeking to obtain returns from a plan investing in gilts (including treasury bills) across the yield curve with the average maturity of the portfolio normally not exceeding seven years and modified duration of the portfolio normally not exceeding five years. The Long Term Plan was intended to suit investors with surpluses for medium to long periods and that the plan would invest in gilts (including treasury bills) across the yield curve with the average maturity of the portfolio normally not exceeding 20 years and modified duration of the portfolio normally not exceeding 12 years.

However, the AMC wound up the Long Term Plan after failing to get the minimum 20 investors mandated by SEBI and continued the Short Term Plan. Subsequently, the said plan underwent certain changes, the major change being the change of the modified duration from 'normally not exceeding 5 years' to 'not exceeding 15 years'.

The counsel for the AMC argued that it was specifically mentioned in the offer document that the average maturity and the modified duration could undergo a change in case the market conditions warrant and according to the views of the concerned fund manager and contended that SEBI did not object to the same while scrutinising the offer document.

Dr Abraham in his order said: "The noticees may be technically correct in stating that the changes made by them are not fundamental attributes, as per the aforesaid SEBI Circular, and therefore there is no legal compulsion on them to adhere to the procedure and manner prescribed under Regulation 18 (15A) of the Mutual Funds Regulations. However, the vital point that the noticee seems to have sadly overlooked is the aforesaid Regulations clearly extend to all changes that affect the interests of unit-holders."

"I am of the view that the board of trustees of the Fund and the Fund have contravened the provisions of Regulations 18(9) & 18(22) of the Mutual Funds Regulations and Clauses 2, 6 and 9 of the Code of Conduct laid down in the Fifth Schedule of the Mutual Funds Regulations. Further, the AMC has contravened Regulations 25(1) & 25 (16) of the Mutual Funds Regulations and Clauses 2, 6 and 9 of the said Code of Conduct. The Chief Executive Officer of the AMC having failed to ensure that the mutual fund complies with all the relevant legal provisions has contravened Regulation 25 (6A) of the Mutual Funds Regulations," Dr Abraham said in an 18-page order.

Comments
JS
1 decade ago
HSBC AS AN ENTITY IS TYPICAL BRITISH HEGEMONY WITH GREED THAT EAST INDIA CO. HAD!

THEY DONT EVEN HAVE A TOLL FREE NO.!

WORLD'S LOCAL BANK! MY FOOT! IT IS WORSE THAN GRAMIN PANCHAYT BANKS!

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ramesh b
1 decade ago
good one. SEBI will let off big ones..but will catch mini ones. like in Deewar movie, Police-shashi kapoor fired/caught a poor man who ran with a bread for his hungry parents from a shop. very touchy/memorable scene sequence...
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