SEBI makes unusual call against broker
Moneylife Digital Team 07 December 2010

Finding stock broker Deepak Jhunjhunwala guilty of indulging in price rigging and manipulation in Twenty First Century (India), market regulator bars him from taking up any new assignment for a month; will not clarify what this means

In an unusual order against a stock broker, the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) has banned broker Deepak Jhunjhunwala from taking up "any new assignment" for a period of one month for indulging in price rigging and manipulation of shares of Twenty First Century (India) Limited (TFC).

The SEBI investigation has found that Mr Jhunjhunwala had indulged in various cross-deals while trading for his clients, which created artificial volume and price rise in the scrip of TFC. However, the market regulator has failed to clarify the meaning of "new assignment" in its order. After all, Jhunjhunwala seems to run a brokerage business and does not appear to be an employer or a consultant.

Normally, a broker found guilty of stock price manipulation and other such unfair trade practices is banned from undertaking any trading activity for a certain period of time. However, this order to abstain from undertaking any new assignment is a rare and confusing call from the regulator. Moneylife sent an email query to SEBI seeking clarification on the matter, but received no reply till the time of writing.

SEBI conducted investigations regarding buying, selling and dealing in the shares of TFC from November 2001 to April 2002. SEBI investigations revealed that there was a significant rise in both the price and volume of the scrip of TFC during this period. It was trading at Rs2.50 in November 2001 and went up to Rs53 on 12 January 2002, a massive jump of about 2000% in two months! Subsequently, the price came down to Rs3.50 on 30 April 2002. SEBI found that the rise in price of the stock was not supported by any improvement in the fundamentals or any corporate action by TFC.

The investigation further revealed that the trading was concentrated between top 10 brokers who had the scrip. Data provided by CSE, revealed that the trades were structured in nature and the brokers trading in the scrip were engaged in cross-deals for their clients. These cross-deals were about 90% to 97% of the total trades entered by these brokers, among them Deepak Jhunjhunwala.

Based on these findings, SEBI initiated inquiry proceedings against Deepak Jhunjunwala under regulation 5(1) of the inquiry regulations, through an order on 11 March 2008. The inquiry officer submitted his report recommending a prohibition to take up any new assignment for a period of one month to Mr Jhunjhunwala for violating the provisions of regulation 4(a) and (d) of SEBI (Prohibition of Fraudulent and Unfair Trade Practices Relating to Securities Market) Regulations, 1995. The broker apparently admitted to having encouraged the sale and purchase of securities with the object of generating brokerage.

Looking at the facts and circumstances of the case, SEBI found that "Mr Jhunjhunwala had dealt in the scrip of TFC in a manner detrimental to interest of investors. Such acts may threaten the market integrity and orderly development of the market and call for regulatory intervention to protect the interest of investors."

Sushil Maheshwari
1 decade ago
The rigging of TFC happened a decade back in 2001-02. Sebi investigation took almost 10 years to find the manipulation. What about the small investors who had probably lost their money in this scip due to the price rigging. Will SEBI compensate the loosers or ask the broker to compensate them. If not what is the purpose of putting a ban for a month.
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