Raghav Bahl of CNBC, Sameer Manchanda, Den Networks & others pay up Rs4.93 crore as settlement fee
The cable distributor along with 24 other entities including its CMD Sameer Manchanda and Network18 founder Raghav Bahl paid Rs4.93 crore to SEBI for settling various alleged violations committed by Den Networks during its IPO
Den Networks, along with 24 other entities, including its chairman and managing director (CMD), Sameer Manchanda and Raghav Bahl, founder and managing director of Network18, has paid Rs4.93 crore to settle a case of alleged violations with market regulator Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI). Thus, it appears that these entities have taken advantage of SEBI’s consent order mechanism by collectively paying a huge fine in order to escape possible punishment, public shame and possible debarment from the securities market.
Typically, SEBI has helped hide the true nature of the offences by these persons and entities by using vague and obfuscatory terms in its consent order. The SEBI consent order hence suggests that the company, its promoters, board of directors and several other entities were charged with violating various regulations, including prohibition of certain dealings in securities, prohibition of manipulative, fraudulent and unfair trade practices. The company is also alleged to have flouted the code of internal procedures and conduct for listed companies and other entities. In fact, the order ought to have explained in detail the specific nature of the charges, even if they entities were allowed to get away without confirming or denying guilt. The massive size of the settlement however indicates that the charges were pretty serious.
Den Network’s CMD Sameer Manchanda played an important role in launching CNN-IBN, a 24-hour English language news and current affairs channel, and has been integral to the Network18 Group, an Indian media house. Incidentally, Bahl, one of the founders of the Network18 group and the TV18 Group, found mention in the consent order. He paid Rs2 lakh as fine. Bahl, a prominent media personality, quit directorship of Den Networks in October 2010.
Den Networks’ board of directors includes Robindra Sharma, Atul Sharma, Shahzaad Siraj Dalal, Raghav Bahl, Ajaya Chand and Krishna Kumar PT. Incidentally, Shahzaad Siraj Dalal used to be a director of TV18 until he quit last year. He too paid Rs2 lakh as fine.
Hemant Narang, who is linked to Lucid Systems Pvt Ltd (one of the entities accused and co-promoters of Den Networks at time of violation) was asked to pay Rs5.86 lakh as consent fine to SEBI.
Earlier on 18 May 2012, the market regulator issued a show-cause notice to Den Networks and 24 entities for alleged violation of SEBI regulations. It was alleged that Den Networks had directly or indirectly provided funds to certain entities for buying the company’s shares in its initial public offering (IPO), without making any disclosures.
While adjudication proceedings were on, Den Networks and other entities moved a consent application to SEBI to settle the adjudication proceedings and the proposed prosecution proceedings on payment of Rs 4.93 crore as settlement charges.
SEBI in its press release said, “A panel consisting of whole-time members, SEBI, Rajeev Kumar Agarwal and Prashant Saran has passed a consent order on 11 March 2013 on the application submitted by Den Networks on behalf of itself and 24 other entities, in accordance with SEBI Circular dated 20 April 2007 read with the circular dated 25 May 2012. The applicants have remitted a sum of Rs4.93 crore towards consent terms in the matter without admitting or denying the guilt on their part.”
Robindra Sharma, Atul Sharma, Shahzaad Siraj Dalal, Raghav Bahl, Ajaya Chand and Krishna Kumar PT paid a fine of Rs2 lakh each. Meerut Cable Network Pvt Ltd, Den Entertainment Network Pvt Ltd, Den Satellite Networks Pvt Ltd, Convergence Consultants Pvt Ltd, Puja Arora, Gagan Arora, Romi Shiv, MD Cable Network, Rashmeet Kaur, Piyush Goyal, Amit Grover, Vikas Bali, Summit Grover and Harvinder Singh together paid Rs47.60 lakh or Rs3.40 lakh each.
Sameer Manchanda and Lucid Systems Pvt Ltd, both promoters of Den Networks at the time of alleged violations paid Rs4 lakh together, while Hemant Narang and Anuj Gandhi paid Rs5.86 lakh each.
SEBI’s consent order mechanism allows indicted companies, who have supposedly flouted regulations, to pay up a big fine to the market regulator and get away virtually scot-free, without admitting guilt. The so called High Powered Advisory Committee examined the application submitted by Den Networks and agreed that the case was ripe for settlement. The consent order said, “The High-Powered Advisory Committee constituted by SEBI, in its meeting held on 21 December 2012, after considering the consent terms proposed by the applicants and all the relevant factors, recommended the case for settlement on payment”.
According to the SEBI website, the High-Powered Advisory Committee on consent orders and compounding of offences includes: Justice (Rtd) SM Jhunjhunwala—former judge of the Bombay High Court, Dr B Samal—former member of Securities Appellate Tribunal, V Leeladhar—former deputy governor of Reserve Bank of India and Dolphy D’Souza—Partner, E&Y. The High Powered Advisory Committee’s recommendations were accepted by SEBI.
Den Networks is one of India's leading cable TV distribution companies reaching an estimated 11 million households. According to the website, Den Networks has a 50-50 joint venture with News Corp’s Star TV Group called Star DEN which was formed in 2008. In May 2011, Star DEN formed a 50-50 joint venture with Zee Turner combining the distribution assets of the Star, Zee and Turner groups in India.