An Insight on Direct Selling Guidelines, 2016 Pyramid Schemes vis-a-vis MLM

By Saloni Mathur (finserv@vinodkothari.com)

Introduction

There has been a shift in the paradigm of the performance of the direct selling agents. The role and responsibilities of the direct selling agents have witnessed a revolution, where they are required to comply with certain codes as prescribed by the government from time to time, and follow certain practises while discharging their responsibilities. The RBI’s master directions[1]on the outsourcing norms have put stringent compliances on the service providers while discharging their functions, and increased responsibility and monitoring on the part of the non-banking financial companies. The question that arises here is whether those non- banking companies complying with the outsourcing guidelines, fall under the ambit of the direct selling guidelines also and if they, then what is the nature of the applicability of these direct selling guidelines on them.

According to a report on the Indian direct selling industry published by FICCI and KPMG, the direct selling market in India has grown at a CAGR of 16 per cent over the past five years to reach INR75 billion today.[2] Due to this unprecedented rise in direct selling industry and the growth of a large distribution base, major scams have been witnessed over the years in reputed companies owing to the nature of marketing methods adopted by them.

The Government of India, Ministry of consumer affairs, food and public distribution, department of consumer affairs, vide its notification number F.No.21/18/2014-IT (vol II) dated 09th September, 2016 modelled certain guidelines on the direct selling regulating the business of direct selling and the multi-level marketing.

This article is an attempt to envisage the rationale behind these guidelines and the applicability of these guidelines on the direct selling agents and the various compliances that are required to be made by the direct selling entities and the direct sellers.[3] Further this article also takes into account the concept of Multi-level marketing and the pyramid schemes with reference to the applicability on the direct selling agents.

Rationale behind the launch of the Scheme

The direct selling industry has brought about with itself a huge reservoir of marketing, selling and distribution base for the goods and services, which has given rise to various fraudulent practises in the marketing and the distribution system. Instances can be drawn from the famous Amway and the Qnet case where entire money in the chain was earned only through the recruitment of new members and adding more participants to the channels of distribution, rather than the actual sale of the goods and services. Though the Amway was convicted of “illegal pyramid scheme” it could finally escape all criticism under the umbrella of the “the Amway safeguard rules”. However, the case has left strong marks of scepticism in the validity of the direct selling business.

The companies which were engaged in multi-level marketing were carrying out various frauds through the recruitment of large number of participants in the system. Thus, a need was felt where a robust system of direct selling guidelines was required to protect the interest of the consumers.

Defining the Pyramid and the MLM schemes

Defining the Pyramid Scheme

“Pyramid Scheme” as defined in the guidelines mean a multi layered network of subscribers to a scheme formed by subscribers enrolling one or more subscribers in order to receive any benefit, directly or indirectly, as a result of enrolment, action or performance of additional subscribers to the scheme. The subscribers enrolling further subscriber(s) occupy higher position and the enrolled subscriber(s) lower position, thus, with successive enrolments, they form multi-layered network of subscribers.

The key feature of the pyramid is that as the entrants in the last layer of the pyramid continue to get more and more participants who pay money. By way of this a hierarchy is created and the sponsor who holds the top most position is the recipient of the highest commission. The Amway case is the perfect example of the “illegal Pyramid scheme” where the purpose of the scheme was to make money through recruiting more distributors at various levels.

The pyramid scheme is illegal in India under the Prize chits and Money Circulation Schemes (banning) act, 1978. Hence there is a non-applicability of this scheme.

Following are some of the key constituents of the Pyramid Schemes

High registration fees

The basic quality of a pyramid scheme is that there is a high registration and entry fees upfront that the participants in the scheme have to pay. The entry fee is so high that the participants holding top position get a very high commission fees.

Goods sold at a price higher than the fair value and a higher quantity that is generally sold in the market

The goods and services under the pyramid schemes are not sold at the fair value. Fair value means the price at which the goods and services are generally available in the market. If the goods are sold to the consumers at a price higher than what is a general fair market price, it is a pyramid scheme.  Similarly, if the goods are sold at a quantity higher than what is expected to be consumed by, or sold, resold to consumers, it will constitute to be a pyramid scheme. The price of the goods and services have a higher component of commission cost rather than the actual product price. The price of the product generally has 70% commission cost and remaining 30% cost of the product.

The level of unsold inventory

Under the pyramid schemes the unsold inventories of the participants is not generally brought back by the distributor.

Emphasis on the recruitment of more members

There is a greater emphasis on the recruitment of more members rather than promoting and distributing the product. The purpose here is to fetch higher commissions for the sponsors at the top most level.

No material contract between the direct selling entity and the direct seller

There is no material agreement entered between the direct selling entity and the direct seller on buy back, refund, repurchase policy of the unsold inventory.

No cooling off period

There is no cooling off period given to the direct sellers up to which they can cancel the contract.

Defining the Multi-level Marketing (MLM) scheme

In an MLM structure, multi-level marketing or the network marketing are used to sell the products directly to the consumers in which the salesmen are compensated not only for the work done by them but also for the sales of the people who have joined the company through them.[4]

The main purpose of the MLM scheme is to ensure wide distribution of the products or services and the intent is to sell the product through a network of wide range of distributors. Thus, it is just a marketing strategy unlike a fraudulent pyramid scheme where there are tangible distribution of the goods and services.

Comparing the MLM and the ‘Pyramid’

The big difference between multilevel marketing and a pyramid scheme is in the way the business operates. The entire purpose of a pyramid scheme is to get distributors’ money and then use it to recruit other distributors. The entire purpose of MLM is to move the product and ultimately achieve the sales of the product. The theory behind MLM is that the larger the network of distributors in a chain, the more products the business will be able to sell. Therefore, whether it is a pyramid scheme or an MLM approach depends upon the legality of the schemes and the purpose behind their operation as the Pyramid scheme is illegal.

Defining key concepts under the ‘direct selling guidelines 2016’

‘Direct selling’ has been clearly defined in regulation 6 which means marketing, distribution and the sale of the goods or providing of any services as a part of network of direct selling other than under a pyramid scheme.

Thus, what constitutes to be a direct selling is based on four conditions i.e direct selling has to be marketing, distribution, and selling of the goods and services as a part of network of direct selling. Thus all the four conditions need to be qualified simultaneously for determining direct selling. Thus, a direct selling agent, if restricts its services only to marketing of products and not to selling and distribution would not be required to comply with these guidelines.

Similarly, the network is defined as an arrangement of intersecting horizontal and vertical lines. To be a network it is therefore necessary that there is a hierarchy of a direct selling agents such that there is a superior subordinate relationship at all levels of distribution

The ‘network of direct selling’ means a network of direct sellers at different levels of distribution who may recruit or sponsor further levels of the direct sellers, who they then support. “Network of direct selling” shall mean any system of distribution or marketing adopted by a direct selling entity to undertake direct selling business and shall include the multi-level marketing method of distribution.

This network of direct sellers also includes the multi-level marketing method of distribution.

Thus, network of direct selling shall be hierarchical. Single level of distribution would not constitute any network.

Comparing the network, the Pyramid and the MLM

The network may be at a horizontal level also. For example, if there is one direct selling entity selling goods and services through a single level of the direct sellers, all at the same level shall constitute a network. However, Pyramid necessarily has to be a vertical hierarchy such that there should a superior subordinate relationship. Multi-level marketing shall have to a be a legal marketing strategy and not a fraudulent scheme.

Understanding the applicability of the scheme

The applicability of the above guidelines on the direct and selling agents have to be checked from the following facts:

This scheme is applicable on the following companies.

  1. Companies engaged in marketing as well as selling and distributing the products simultaneously under the network of direct selling.
  2. All the multi-level marketing schemes such that there are different levels of distribution and the participants are at different distribution levels. Here the participants at the same level of distribution shall not be required to comply with the scheme.
  3. Company carrying its operations through a hierarchical multi-level system.
  4. Companies appointing the direct selling agents in such a way, such that they are sponsoring or carrying out recruitment further so that a large network of distribution is created
  5. Companies that have relevant clauses in the outsourcing agreement and which specifically reflect the outsourcing or subcontracting of the service to the third parties.
  6. Companies requiring direct selling agents to pay high membership fees and greater entry costs.

Non-Applicability of the guidelines to Pyramid schemes and companies having only one level of distribution

The guidelines shall not be applicable to the pyramid scheme. This is because these schemes are generally money-making schemes and not any legal marketing strategy. This comes from the fact that pyramid schemes are generally created not to market the products, but to create a distributor base for earning large money through promotion. Thus, the direct selling guidelines take a legal view and apply to only legal MLM schemes and direct selling.

Further the companies having only a horizontal distribution base such that they are not recruiting or sponsoring further levels in the chain shall be kept out of the purview of these guidelines.

Quick compliance checklist for direct selling guidelines 2016

  1. All direct selling companies in India shall submit an undertaking to the department of the consumer affairs within 90 days from 12th September 2016.
  2. Direct seller cannot receive remuneration or incentive for the recruitment/enrolment of the new participants.
  3. Direct sellers can only receive remuneration derived from the sale of goods or services
  4. Direct seller shall carry its identity card and not visit the customers premises without prior intimation/approval.
  5. Direct selling company cannot force its direct sellers to purchase more goods or service than they can expect to consume or sell.
  6. Direct selling company cannot demand any entry fee/registration fee.
  7. Company must provide every participant written contracts describing the material terms (buy back, re-purchase policy, cooling period, warranty and refund policy.
  8. Mandatory orientation session with accurate information for the newly recruited direct selling agents
  9. There shall be prohibition of the pyramid scheme and the money circulation scheme.
  10. There shall be a monitoring authority to deal with the issues related to the direct selling.

Conclusion

There is no scepticism regarding the benefits of the direct selling guidelines on the interest of the consumers in prevention of the frauds against them, however comprehending the applicability of these directions is a hard nut to crack for various entities who are in a dilemma to comply with these guidelines. The guidelines do not specifically state the extent of the applicability; however, they do give certain apparent indications to the entities to whom these guidelines shall be applicable.

Thus, any company desirous of increasing their distribution base for selling wide range of products or services and who intend to do it by creating a hierarchical distribution that requires further outsourcing and recruitment shall be required to comply with the guidelines. Further the outsourcing agreement between the DSA and the service provider shall clearly state the provisions regarding contracting and the sub-contracting, subsequent to which only a network of distributors could be created.


[1] https://rbidocs.rbi.org.in/rdocs/notification/PDFs/NT87_091117658624E4F2D041A699F73068D55BF6C5.PDF

[2] https://www.souravghosh.com/blog/direct-selling-guidelines-2016/

[3] http://consumeraffairs.nic.in/writereaddata/Direct%20Selling%20guidelines.pdf

[4] https://www.icsi.edu/WebModules/LinksOfWeeks/JuneCS_2014.pdf

Consultative meeting with stakeholders (Minutes of the meetings have been shared with the respective stakeholders)

Mandatory linking of Aadhaar and PAN under PMLA

By Anita Baid, (finserv@vinodkothari.com)

PML Second Amendment Rules

The Ministry of Finance on 1st June, 2017 vide notification No. G.S.R. 538(E) issued the [1]Prevention of Money-Laundering (Maintenance of Records) Second Amendment Rules, 2017 (hereinafter referred to as “Second Amendment Rules”) mandating all account holders of the reporting entities i.e., banks and financial institutions to link Aadhaar number issued by the Unique Identification Authority of India and Permanent Account Number (PAN) or Form No. 60 as defined in Income-tax Rules, 1962. The timelines for the same were as below- Read more

RBI’s P2P Regulations: A step forward or backward?

The Reserve Bank of India issued a Master Directions – Non Banking Financial Company – Peer to Peer Lending Platform (Reserve Bank) Directions, 2017 (hereinafter referred to as “Directions”) on 4th October, 2017[1], which is an extensive statement outlining in detail the various rules and regulations that all existing and prospective entities carrying on or intending to carry on the business of Peer-to-Peer (P2P) lending (hereby known as NBFC-P2P) will have to comply with. These Directions shall come in force with immediate effect and shall apply to all NBFC-P2Ps, i.e. with effect from the date of issuance of the Master Directions, mentioned above. Read more

The Financial Resolution and Deposit Insurance Bill, 2017: Key Highlights

By Nidhi Bothra, (nidhi@vinodkothari.com)

 

In March, 2016 a committee was constituted under the Chairmanship of Mr. Ajay Tyagi to draft and submit a bill on resolution of financial firms. In September, 2016, the Committee submitted its report and bill which was titled as “The Financial Resolution and Deposit Insurance Bill, 2016”[1] (Bill 2016). The objective of the Bill, 2016 was to provide for a framework for safeguarding the stability and viability of financial services providers and to protect the interest of the depositors, as the name of the bill also suggests[2].

The Financial Resolution and Deposit Insurance Bill, 2017[3] (Bill, 2017) is formulated to provide resolution to certain categories of financial service providers in distress; the deposit insurance to consumers of certain categories of financial services; designation of systemically important financial institutions; and establishment of a Resolution Corporation for protection of consumers of specified service providers and of public funds for ensuring the stability and resilience of the financial system and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.

The proposed legislation together with the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016 is expected to provide a comprehensive resolution mechanism for the economy.

The existing draft of the Bill, 2017 has been referred to a Joint Parliamentary Committee of both the Houses, under the Chairpersonship of Shri Bhupender Yadav, for examination and presenting a Report to the Parliament.

The Bill is divided into several chapters, which deal with establishment of a Resolution Corporation, its powers, management and functioning which is broadly to function along with the appropriate regulator[4] of financial services provider, classification of persons as systematically important financial institutions, deposit insurance, restoration and resolution plan, method of resolution, liquidation etc.

Highlights of the Bill, 2017

The brief highlights of the Bill[5], 2017 are as follows:

  1. Establishing the Resolution Corporation – A resolution corporation would be formulated broadly with the objective of
    1. monitoring certain financial services provider[6];
    2. providing deposit insurance to banking institutions;
    3. classifying certain persons as specified service provider [7] into one of the categories of risks to viability;
    4. acting as an administrator or liquidator for such service provider or resolve a specified service provider which has been classified into critical risk category;
    5. set up funds including Corporation Insurance Fund, set up for deposit insurance provided by the Corporation to the insured service providers[8] and other funds such as Corporation Resolution Fund for meeting the expenses of carrying out resolution of specified service providers and Corporation General Fund for all other functions of the Corporation.
  2. Deposit Insurance – Chapter IV of the Bill, 2017 discusses about deposit insurance and largely deals with
    1. Determination of amount payable by the Corporation, to a depositor on account of deposit insured;
    2. Amount payable to an insured service provider[9] on account of resolution but not bail-out or eligible co-operative bank on account of merger or amalgamation;
    3. If the Resolution Corporation is dealing with the resolution of an insured service provider, then the Corporation may decide to invite offers from other insured service providers to take over the liabilities, deposits or realisable assets of the insured service provider.
  3. Categorisation as SIFIs[10] – Certain persons can be classified as SIFIs by the Central Government in consultation with the appropriate regulator, as per Section 25 of the Bill, 2017, if it meets the criteria prescribed by the Central Government in this regard. Once categorised as an SIFI, then are deemed to be specified service provider and the provisions of being a specified service provider under the Bill, 2017 become applicable to them. It is important to mention that any financial service provider or domestic systematically important banks can be classified as SIFIs. Once classified as SIFIs, the Central Government may designate, its holding, subsidiary, associate company or any other body corporate related to it as financial service provider and falling into the ambit of being SIFI.
  4. Registration of specified service provider – Chapter V of the Bill, 2017 talks about registration of specified service providers and states that if a person classified as a specified service provider or deemed to be a service provider, it shall be deemed to be registered under the Act, from the date of classification. If the appropriate regulator has issued a license in favour of a specified service provider, such license shall be deemed to be registration for the purpose of this Act as well.
  5. Risk to viability categories – The Bill, 2017 specifies 5 categories[11] of risk to viability under Section 36 (5) and are as follows —
    1. low, where the probability of failure of a specified service provider is substantially below the acceptable probability of failure;
    2. moderate, where the probability of failure of a specified service provider is marginally below or equal to acceptable probability of failure;
    3. material, where the probability of failure of a specified service provider is marginally above acceptable probability of failure;
    4. imminent, where the probability of failure of a specified service provider is substantially above the acceptable probability of failure;
    5. critical, where the probability of failure of a specified service provider is substantially above the acceptable probability of failure, and the specified service provider is on the verge of failing to meet its obligations to its consumers

The classification of a specified service provider into any of the categories of risk to viability except the category of critical risk to viability under section 45, shall be kept confidential by the appropriate regulator, the Corporation and by all relevant parties.

6.   Categorisation of specified service providers under risk to viability categories

  1. The Resolution Corporation in consultation with the appropriate regulator categorise specified service providers under risk to viability categories.
  2. The Resolution Corporation shall have no power to classify a specified service provider into the category of low or moderate risk to viability.
  3. While classifying under risk categories, they can assess, evaluate and classify the holding or non-regulated operational entity within the group of the specified service provider as deemed to be a specified service provider.

7.   Restoration and Resolution Plan — Any specified service provider, classified in the category of material or imminent risk to viability shall submit a restoration plan to the appropriate regulator and a resolution plan to the Corporation within ninety days of such classification. Every restoration plan will prescribe for the details of restoring category to low moderate and resolution plan on who resolution will be achieved.

Where a systemically important financial institution is classified in the category of low or moderate risk to viability, it shall submit the information required under this subsection assuming that it is classified in the category of material or imminent risk to viability.

Where the Resolution Corporation determines that liquidation is the most appropriate method for the resolution of a specified service provider, notwithstanding anything in any other law for the time being in force relating to liquidation and winding up, the Corporation shall make an application to the Tribunal for an order of liquidation in respect of such specified service provider.

The detailed actions as prescribed under the Bill for various categories of risks is tabulated in Annexure I to this note.

Changes from the Bill, 2016

The Bill, 2016 aimed at including all NBFCs its foray. Bill, 2017 only intends to cover such NBFCs and other entities in the group, if such NBFC is classified on high risks to viability categories. This was an important and a necessary change from the Bill, 2016.

All the NBFCs, big and small will be continued to be monitored by the appropriate regulators, however, matters will get escalated only if they are on the risks to viability meter. Similar would be the case with other financial services providers as well.

Some key issues

Some key issues that the Bill, 2017 does not address or overlook are as follows:

  1. Definition of financial services provider – The Bill does not provide for a definition of financial services providers. The specified services provider will be deduced from the financial services providers, by and large. However the Bill, 2017 does not expressly provide for the universe of which the monitoring will be carried out. The Bill, 2017 indicates, NBFCs, insurance companies and banking institutions will fall in the ambit of discussion.
  2. NBFC-Ds – While the concept continues to be theoretical for all practical purposes, but the Bill, 2017 does not make a mention at all of this category of entities.
  3. Resolution and restoration plan — Chapter VII provides for resolution plan and restoration plan to be submitted to appropriate regulator and resolution corporation for material and imminent risk category specified service providers. The plans are to be submitted with 90 days. The brief contents of the plans to be provided to the authorities is prescribed in the Bill, 2017. However, are both plans to be provided within 90 days from the date of categorisation and for both categories?

For both categories of risks to viability, there can be strong intervention of the authorities in running of the business itself. One may find it difficult to find the distinction between the two categories of the risks to viability as the action taken by the authorities and from the specified service providers seems to be almost similar.

In case an entity is categorised as critical risk to viability, the turnaround of the resolution plan is to be carried out within one year, else the Resolution Corporation may require the liquidation of the entity. The entities, in determination here have an element of systemic risks and therefore liquidation of such entities can have daunting consequences on the economy. The provision for triggering liquidation should be well defined or determined in consultation with the Central Government.

4.   Rule-making – The devil, as they say, lies in the details. A lot of actions to be taken in each of the risks categorisation will come by way of rule-making. This will determine the effectiveness of the resolution plans and restoration plans prescribed in the Bill, 2017.

5.  Existing resolution mechanisms – The appropriate regulators have introduced several policy initiatives and resolution guidance and schemes for restructuring of stressed assets, special restructuring norms, strategic restructuring norms, corporate debt restructuring wherein the entities were required to submit resolution/ restructuring/ restoration plans within certain timeframes. The experience with these guidelines have indicated the failure of these guidelines and schemes to provide for a resolution plan within the dedicated time frame and also restoring the position of the entities.Therefore, appropriate learnings from those guidelines should also be reflected in the Bill,2017.

Annexure I

SL no. Category of risk to viability (Section 36) Categorised by ** Immediate action to be taken by the specified service provider Continued Action required by the specified service provider Action taken by appropriate regulator and/ or corporation
 
1 Low Appropriate Regulator No Action taken, regular monitoring of the activities of the entity may be conducted.

Where a SIFI is classified in the category of low or moderate risk to viability, it shall submit the information required under section 39 (2) assuming that it is classified in the category of material or imminent risk to viability.

2 Moderate Appropriate Regulator No Action taken, regular monitoring of the activities of the entity may be conducted.

Where a SIFI is classified in the category of low or moderate risk to viability, it shall submit the information required under section 39 (2) assuming that it is classified in the category of material or imminent risk to viability.

3 Material Resolution Corporation or Appropriate Regulator Submit a restoration plan[12] to the appropriate regulator and a resolution plan[13] to the resolution corporation within 90 days of such classification.

A copy of the restoration plan and resolution plan to be submitted to the resolution corporation and appropriate regulator respectively, within 15 days of the first submission, thereof.

Every systemically important financial institution shall submit a restoration plan to the appropriate regulator and a resolution plan to the Corporation within ninety days of its designation under section 25.

Every restoration plan or resolution plan shall be revised annually and the appropriate regulator and the Corporation shall be informed of such revised restoration plan, within seven days of the revision.

Every material change shall be immediately informed to the appropriate regulator and the Corporation.

Additional inspection may be carried out to monitor the risk to viability.

Appropriate regulator may prevent entity from taking certain business decisions including declaration of dividend, establishing new business or acquiring new clients, undertaking related party transactions, increasing liabilities etc.

Appropriate regulator may require the entity to increase capital, sell assets etc.

4 Imminent Resolution Corporation or Appropriate Regulator

 

Or

If the specified service provider has not submitted the restoration plan or resolution plan within prescribed time frame.

Submit a restoration plan to the appropriate regulator and a resolution plan to the resolution corporation within 90 days of such classification.

A copy of the restoration plan and resolution plan to be submitted to the resolution corporation and appropriate regulator respectively, within 15 days of the first submission, thereof.

Every systemically important financial institution shall submit a restoration plan to the appropriate regulator and a resolution plan to the Corporation within ninety days of its designation under section 25.

Every restoration plan or resolution plan shall be revised annually and the appropriate regulator and the Corporation shall be informed of such revised restoration plan, within seven days of the revision.

Every material change shall be immediately informed to the appropriate regulator and the Corporation.

The resolution corporation may appoint an officer to inspect the functioning of the entity and act as an observer.

The corporation may prevent the entity from accepting funds, declaring dividend, acquiring new businesses or new clients, undertake related party transactions etc.

The corporation may require the entity to infuse new capital or sell identified assets etc.

 

A specified service provider classified in the category of imminent risk to viability shall, if it is not a SIFI, submit a resolution plan to the Corporation within 90 days.

 

5 Critical Resolution Corporation or Appropriate Regulator – effective from the date of publication in official gazette N.A. N.A. Corporation shall be deemed to be the administrator[14] and may take the following actions:

a.       resolve the issue through a scheme or merger or amalgamation or bail-in instrument.

b.      Transfer whole or part of assets/ liabilities to another person

c.       Create a bridge service provider

d.      Cause liquidation of the entity

e.       No legal action or proceeding including arbitration shall commence or continue until conclusion of resolution.

f.       No repayment or acceptance of deposit shall be made or liabilities incurred.

g.      temporarily prohibit (not exceeding 2 business days) by an order in writing, the exercise of such termination rights of any party to such specified contract with the relevant specified service provider or its associate company or subsidiary

License granted to the entity by the appropriate regulator may be withdrawn or modified.

 


[1] http://dea.gov.in/sites/default/files/FRDI%20Bill-27092016_1.pdf

[2] See our article titled – Financial Resolution and Deposit Insurance Bill: Implications for NBFCs, by Vinod Kothari and Niddhi Parmar, here http://vinodkothari.com/blog/financial-resolution-and-deposit-insurance-bill-implications-for-nbfcs-by-niddhi-parmar/

[3] http://164.100.47.4/BillsTexts/LSBillTexts/Asintroduced/165_2017_LS_Eng.pdf

[4] Appropriate Regulator is defined in First Schedule to the Bill, 2017 to include a) RBI, b) IRDA, c) SEBI, d) Pension Fund Regulatory Development Authority or any other regulator as notified by the Central Government.

[5] http://164.100.47.4/BillsTexts/LSBillTexts/Asintroduced/165_2017_LS_Eng.pdf

[6] Financial services provider categorised as specified service providers and SIFIs fall within the purview of the Resolution Corporation. The detailed mechanism of monitoring is discussed further in the highlights.

[7] A specified service provider is a person as defined in Second Schedule to Bill, 2017 and includes

  1. A banking institution, , other than eligible co-operative bank including an insured service provider;
  2. Any insurance company
  3. Any Financial Market Infrastructure
  4. Any payment system, as defined under the Payment and Settlement Systems Act, 2007 (51 of 2007), not notified under section 227 of the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016 (31 of 2016)
  5. Any non-banking financial company, not notified under section 227 of the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016 (31 of 2016)
  6. Any systemically important financial institution
  7. Any other financial service provider (excluding individuals and partnership firms), not notified under section 227 of the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016 (31 of 2016)
  8. A holding company of any specified service provider enumerated under items 1 to 7, registered in India which is not notified under section 227 of the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016 (31 of 2016), subject to the determination by the Corporation under the proviso to sub-section (1) of section 33
  9. Non-regulated operational entities within a financial group or conglomerate of a specified service provider enumerated under items 1 to 7 subject to the determination by the Corporation under the proviso to sub-section (1) of section 33.
  10. Branch offices of body corporates incorporated outside India, carrying on the business of providing financial service in India.
  11. Any other entity or fund which may be notified by the Central Government

[8] As defined in Section 2 (19) of the Bill, 2017 — means any banking institution, that has obtained deposit insurance under sub-section (3) of section 33. Section 33 (3) states that every banking institution that has been granted a banking license by the appropriate regulator shall be deemed to be categorised as insured service provider for obtaining deposit insurance under the Act.

[9] Insured service provider is a banking institution that has obtained deposit insurance

[10] To qualify as an SIFI, the Central Government will consider the size, complexity of the financial service provider, the nature and volume of transactions undertaken, interconnectedness with other financial service providers and nature of services offered and possibility of substitution such business.

[11] The categorisation are based on assessment of the following parameters:

(a) adequacy of capital, assets and liability; (b) asset quality; (c) capability of management; (d) earnings sufficiency; (e) leverage ratio; (f) liquidity of the specified service provider; (g) sensitivity of the specified service provider to adverse market conditions; (h) compliance with applicable laws; (i) risk of failure of a holding company of a specified service provider or a connected body corporate in India or abroad; and (j) any other attributes as the Corporation deems necessary

[12] A restoration plan as per the provisions of Section 39, will contain details of assets and liabilities of the entity, including contingent liabilities, steps to be taken by the entity to move to moderate classification at least, time frame within which such restoration plan will be executed and other information relevant for the appropriate regulator to assess the plan.

[13] A resolution plan, as per the provisions of Section 40, will contain details of assets and liabilities of the entity, identification of critical functions of the specified service provider, access to financial market infrastructure services, either directly or indirectly, strategy plans on exiting the resolution process and any other relevant information.

[14] The resolution plan must be completed within one year from the date of classification into critical risk to viability. Where the plan is completed within one year and the Corporation deems necessary, it shall require liquidation of the entity.

SEBI mandates timely disclosure of ‘default’: intends to fill credit information gaps

By Vallari Dubey, (vallari@vinodkothari.com)

The Securities and Exchange Board of India (‘SEBI’) has vide circular dated 4th August, 2017[1], issued a set of additional disclosures for default in payment of interest/repayment of principal amount on loans from banks/financial institutions, debt securities etc. the same are to be complied with by all listed entities,

The circular is issued by SEBI, by virtue of ‘the power to remove difficulties’ granted under Regulation 101 of Chapter XII of LODR Regulations, 2015. This circular shall take effect from 1st October, 2017.

Background

As per the existing disclosure requirements, a listed entity is required to intimate or bring it into records of public and/or the stock exchange, the details of any material event or action as specified in the regulations.

Existing disclosures in case of ‘default’

Disclosures by entities which has listed its specified securities[2]

Regulation 30 deals with disclosure of any events/information which, in the opinion of the board of directors of the listed entity are considered material.

The events specified in Para A, Part A of Schedule III are deemed material events, and the listed entity is required to disclose the same to the stock exchange as soon as reasonably possible and not later than twenty four hours from the date of occurrence of event/information. Further, the listed entity shall make disclosures updating material developments with respect to the disclosures already made. The disclosures are also required to be hosted on the website of the company for a minimum period of 5 years.

Inter-alia the events mentioned, para 6 reads as:

  1. Fraud/defaults by promoter or key managerial personnel or by listed entity or arrest of key managerial personnel or by listed entity or arrest of key managerial personnel or promoter.

It may be noted that the term ‘default’ is not defined for the purpose of disclosure under this para.

Disclosures by listed entities which has listed its non-convertible debt securities or non-convertible redeemable preference shares or both

Regulation 51 deals with disclosure of information having a bearing on the performance/operation of the listed entity and/or price sensitive information.  Sub-regulation (2) refers to Part B Schedule III and the events specified therein shall be promptly disclosed to the stock exchanges.

Inter-alia the events mentioned, para 1, 4, 9 and 11 read as:-

  1. Expected default in timely payment of interests/preference dividend or redemption or repayment amount or both in respect of the non-convertible debt securities and non-convertible redeemable preference shares and also default in creation of security for debentures as soon as the same becomes apparent;

 

  1. Any action that shall affect adversely payment of interest on non-convertible debt securities or payment of dividend on non-convertible redeemable preference shares including default by issuer to pay interest on non-convertible debt securities or redemption amount and failure to create a charge on the assets;

 

  1. Delay/ default in payment of interest or dividend / principal amount/redemption for a period of more than three months from the due date;

 

  1. Any instance(s) of default/delay in timely repayment of interests or principal obligations or both in respect of the debt securities including, any proposal for re scheduling or postponement of the repayment programmes of the dues/debts of the listed entity with any investor(s)/lender(s).

 

Explanation – For the purpose of this sub-para, ‘default’ shall mean Non-payment of interest or principal amount in full on the pre-agreed date and shall be recognized at the first instance of delay in servicing of any interest or principal on debt.

Additional disclosures to be made w.e.f. 1st October, 2017

Pursuant to the said circular, disclosures in the format prescribed therein (not covered under the existing disclosure regime) are required to be made. As stated in the circular, the disclosures seek to imbibe a culture of discipline amongst the listed entities and facilitate to fill the existing gaps in terms of credit and default information of listed entities, in respect of loans and borrowings from banks. Such detailed information which is to be provided, along with strict timelines, will prove to be fruitful to the banks and other stakeholders, in cases where any application is initiated against any listed entity before the National Company Law Tribunal under the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016.The disclosures shall be made when the listed entity has committed “default” in its obligation towards any of the following:-

  1. Debt securities (including commercial papers)
  2. Medium Term Notes (MTNs)
  3. Foreign Currency Convertible Bonds
  4. Loans from banks and financial institutions
  5. External Commercial Borrowings (ECBs)
  6. Any other case as and when required

For the purpose of the aforesaid, default shall mean non-payment of interest or principal amount at a pre-agreed date.

Information to Credit Rating Agencies (CRAs)

All information pertaining to ‘default’ by the listed entities shall also be supplied to Credit Rating Agencies. Reference may be made to the recent SEBI circular dated 30th June, 2017[3]. The circular clarifies the applicability of the obligation on the Debenture Trustee to monitor and share information about default in payment of interest/principal amount, with registered CRAs. Another circular on the same date was issued[4], laying down a comprehensive monitoring and review mechanism for ratings given by CRAs; the circular also provide for submission of No Default Statement by the issuer to the CRA on a monthly basis.

A tabular comparison of disclosures before and after October 1, 2017

An effective date of 1st October, 2017 has been provided in the circular to enable enough flexibility to the listed entities, to set up proper systems in place for compliance of the disclosures to be made therein.


[1] http://www.sebi.gov.in/legal/circulars/aug-2017/disclosures-by-listed-entities-of-defaults-on-payment-of-interest-repayment-of-principal-amount-on-loans-from-banks-financial-institutions-debt-securities-etc_35538.html

[2] Regulation 2 (zl) defines: ‘specified securities’ means ‘equity shares’ and ‘convertible securities’ as defined under clause (zj) of sub-regulation (1) of regulation 2 of the Securities and Exchange Board of India (Issue of Capital and Disclosure Requirements) Regulations, 2009;

[3] http://www.sebi.gov.in/legal/circulars/jun-2017/clarification-on-monitoring-of-interest-principal-repayment-and-sharing-of-such-information-with-credit-rating-agencies-by-debenture-trustees_35219.html

[4] http://www.sebi.gov.in/legal/circulars/jun-2017/monitoring-and-review-of-ratings-by-credit-rating-agencies-cras-_35220.html

 

MCA Clarification on IFC Reporting in Auditor’s Report for Private Companies

MCA vide its General Circular No. 08/2017 dated July 25, 2017[1] has issued a clarification regarding applicability of exemptions provided to private companies. Till now MCA has issued two notifications viz., Notification No. GSR 464(E) dated June 05, 2015[2]and Notification No. GSR 583(E) dated June 13, 2017[3] providing various exemptions to the private companies. Some of the major exemptions are as follows: Read more