Important Rulings -Section 56 (2) (viia), 56 (2) (x) and 56 (2) (viib) of Income Tax Act 1961

– Qasim Saif and Mahesh Jethani

finserv@vinodkothari.com

Section 56(2) (viia)

  • When shares of closely held company received without consideration or for inadequate consideration
  • Where shortfall in consideration as compared to Fair Market Value (FMV) exceeded Rs. 50,000
  • Recipient is:

(a) Firm

(b) closely held company

  • Then, FMV of such shares exceeding Rs. 50,000/- after reducing the value of consideration paid, if any, was considered as – Income from other Sources.

Section 56(2) (x)

Section 56(2)(vii)/(viia) is inoperative with effect from 1-4-2017

Clause (x) is inserted in section 56(2) to provide that the specified receipts [same as provided in Sec. 56(2)(vii)] will be taxable as income in the hands of any person, under the head ‘Income from Other Sources’

Sub-Clause (c) of Clause (x) of Section 56-Taxation of any property other than Money and Immovable Property: –

  • If received without consideration, the aggregate fair market value of which exceeds fifty thousand rupees, the whole of the aggregate fair market value of such property shall be considered Income from Other Source
  • If there is inadequate consideration whereby the difference between FMV and consideration exceeds Rs.50,000/- then difference in FMV and consideration will be considered as IFOS

Property means the following capital asset of the assessee –

(i) immovable property being land or building or both;

(ii) share and securities;

(iii) jewellery;

(iv) archaeological collections;

(v) drawings;

(vi) paintings;

(vii) sculptures; or

(viii) any work of art.

(ix) Bullion

Reason for amendments

The Memorandum to the section explains the following-

“The existing definition of property for the purpose of this section includes immovable property, jewellery, shares, paintings, etc. These anti-abuse provisions are currently applicable only in case of individual or HUF and firm or company in certain cases. Therefore, receipt of sum of money or property without consideration or for inadequate consideration does not attract these anti-abuse provisions in cases of other assessee.”

Thus, it appears that through insertion of new provision, the scope of the existing anti-abuse provision is widened to make it applicable to all assessee and also clubbing section 56(2)(vii) & section 56(2) (viia).

 

Important Rulings on Section 56(2) (viia) and 56(2) (x)

 

Taxability of the credit to the general reserve by the amalgamated company

Aamby Valley Ltd vs. ACIT (ITAT Delhi)

Date: 22nd February 2019.

Background:

Section 56(2) (viia) is an anti-abuse provision which applies only to cases of bogus capital building and money laundering. It does not apply to an amalgamation where shares are allotted at alleged undervaluation.

Increase in general reserves due to recording of assets of amalgamating company at FMV not give rise to any real income to the assessee. It is capital in nature

Judgement and conclusion:

This is an important judgement by Tribunal which deals with the taxability of the credit to the general reserve by the amalgamated company of the fair valuation of the assets received under the scheme of amalgamation. The Tribunal held that the transaction does not give rise to real income to the assessee and it thus cannot be treated as a business profit.

Provisions of Section 56 (2) (viia) will not be applicable if fair value of the shares received was not higher than the sacrifice suffered by taxpayer under the composition reorganisation scheme, as there is no incremental benefit to the shareholder.

Reserve directly credited to general reserve and not in P&L cannot be subjected to MAT.

Raising of Tax related Objection by RD when Income Tax Authority did not raise the same.

Casby Cfs Private Limited vs Casby Logistics Private Limited (Bombay High Court)

Date: 19th March 2015

Background:

In the instant case the question of law is that whether the RD could raise tax-related objections to the scheme of amalgamation though the ITA raised no objections? Whether the scheme was liable to be rejected based on the RD’s aforesaid objections?

One of the issue that was pointed out that the scheme was devised to evade capital gain tax by virtue of using the device of beneficial ownership and scheme, transferee is acquiring shares without consideration which will attract section 56 (2) (viia)

Judgement and conclusion:

Since the court was required to ensure that the scheme did not contravene any Act, the RD was not only entitled to, but was duty-bound, to bring to the HC’s notice any provision in the scheme that contravened any law. This included the Income tax law and aimed to ensure that the company did not use the HC sanction as a shield to protect itself from consequences of contravention of the law

That the ITA did not object did not prevent the RD from raising objections or making such observations with regard to the scheme as he/ she deemed fit, including those pertaining to tax laws

The HC has held that the RD is entitled to raise objections pertaining to income tax in a merger scheme, even though no objections were raised by the tax authorities.

Application of Section 56(2)(viia)/56 (2) (x) in case of Buy Back

Vora Financial Services P. Ltd vs. ACIT (ITAT Mumbai)

Date:29th June 2018

Background:

Section is a counter evasion mechanism to prevent laundering of unaccounted income under the garb of gifts. The primary condition for invoking the section is that the asset gifted should become a “capital asset” and property in the hands of recipient. If the assessee-company has purchased shares under a buyback scheme and the said shares are extinguished by writing down the share capital, the shares do not become capital asset of the assessee-company and hence s. 56(2) (viia) cannot be invoked in the hands of the assessee company

Judgement and conclusion:

A combined reading of the provisions of sec. 56(2)(viia) and the memorandum explaining the provisions show that the provisions of sec. 56(2)(viia) would be attracted when “a firm or company (not being a company in which public are substantially interested) “receives a property”, being shares in a company (not being a company in which public are substantially interested)”.

Therefore, it follows the shares should become “property” of recipient company and in that case, it should be shares of any other company and could not be its own shares. Because own shares cannot be become property of the recipient company.

Accordingly, Tribunal was of the view was that the provisions of sec. 56(2) (viia) should be applicable only in cases where the receipt of shares become property in the hands of recipient and the shares shall become property of the recipient only if it is “shares of any other company”. In the instant case, the assessee herein has purchased its own shares under buyback scheme and the same has been extinguished by reducing the capital and hence the tests of “becoming property” and also “shares of any other company” fail in this case.

The tax authorities are not justified in invoking the provisions of sec. 56(2) (viia) for buyback of own shares.

Valuation of Share to be done as per Rule 11UA

Minda SM Technocast Pvt. Ltd vs. ACIT (ITAT Delhi)

Date: 7th March 2018

Background:

Section 56(2)(viia) read with Rule 11UA, The “Fair Market Value” of shares acquired has to be determined by using the values of the underlying assets and not their market values

In the present case, the assessee has acquired shares of TEPL at Rs.5 per shares. The assessee claimed to have valued the shares of TEPL as per the provisions of Rule 11UA of the Rules. AO was of the view that the assets are to be valued at the fair market value which will increase the value of shares to 45.72 and difference Rs. 40.72 being subjected to tax.

Judgement and conclusion:

“Fair Market Value” of a property, other than an immovable property, means the value determined in accordance with the method as may be prescribed”

On the plain reading of Rule 11UA, it is revealed that while valuing the shares the book value of the assets and liabilities declared by the TEPL should be taken into consideration. There is no whisper under the provision of 11UA of the Rules to refer the Fair Market Value of the land as taken by the Assessing Officer as applicable to the year under consideration. Therefore, ITAT was of the view that the share price calculated by the assessee of TEPL for Rs. 5 per shares has been determined in accordance with the provision of Rule 11UA.

Applicability of section in case of “Gift” by one company to another.

Gagan Infraenergy Ltd vs. DCIT (ITAT Delhi)

Date: 15th May 2018

Background:

Huge volume of shares in a company were transferred by assessee to another company without any consideration and without any proper documentation being executed as per law, giving it name of “Gift”.

Question raised: Will the said transaction be covered by section 56(2)(viia) or is exempt from tax u/s 47(iii) of the Income Tax Act, 1961 (the Act)

Judgement and conclusion:

After considering all the facts and circumstances of the case, it is held that the AO has correctly observed that gift by a corporation to another corporation is a strange transaction as there cannot be a gift between artificial entities/persons. The submissions filed by the Appellant are considered and not found to be tenable.

The assessee has to establish to the hilt, the factum, genuineness and validity of the transaction, the right to enter into such transaction especially when, revenue challenges its genuineness. There is no agreement/document that has been executed between group companies forming part of family realignment. To postulate that a company can give away its assets free to another even orally, can only be aiding dubious attempts at avoidance of tax payable under the Act unless it is supported by documentary evidence

It has been vehemently contested by authorities. CIT (DR) contented that transaction has been effectuated for avoiding payment of tax and to get out of the ambit of section 56 (2) (viia) of the Act. Hence benefit of exemption under section 47 (iii) can not be granted.

 

Application of Section in case of Bonus Issue

Commissioner of Income-Tax vs Dalmia Investment Co. Ltd (Supreme Court)

Date:13th March 1964

Background

There has been a constant flip flop by the CBDT on the issue that whether the provisions of the given section would apply on fresh issue of shares. As the ambiguity prevails the highly celebrated case can be referred for determining applicability of section on Bonus Issue.

Judgement and Conclusion

The apex court in the given case while adjudicating the issue of taxability on transfer of shares held that the Bonus shares were acquired “Without Payment of price and not without consideration” hence it can be implied that Section 56(2) (viia) would not apply in case of bonus issue.

Whether it is valid in law to assess the difference between the value of the shares allotted to the taxpayer and the consideration paid by it, as the taxpayer’s income?

Sudhir Menon HUF vs. ACIT (ITAT Mumbai)

Date: 12th March 2014

Background:

Section 56(2)(vii) (c) (ii) provides that where an individual or a HUF receives any property for a consideration which is less than the FMV of the property, the difference shall be assessed as income of the recipient. The section does not apply to the issue of bonus shares because there is a mere capitalization of profit by the issuing-company and there is neither any increase nor decrease in the wealth of the shareholder as his percentage holding remains constant. Similar view can be taken while considering rights issue as well.

Judgement and conclusion:

Since Right Shares are allotted on the basis of original holding, it cannot be said that same have been allotted at a price less than the fair market value without consideration. Therefore, provisions of Section 56(2)(x) of the Act are not applicable. Moreover, in view of specific provisions of Section 55(2)(aa)(iii) cost of acquisition of these shares will be taken to be the actual price paid by the shareholder and same is not to be adjusted by the amount of deemed income in terms of section 49(4) of the Act, applicability of provisions of section 56(2)(x) is not intended. However it shall be noted that in case the right is assigned to a person the given section would apply.

Valuation of share can be done only on basis of FMV and Not Market Value:

DCIT Mumbai vs Ozoneland Agro Pvt Ltd (ITAT Mumbai)

Date: 2nd May 2018

Background

A.O. observed that two persons transferred their shares to the assessee at Rs.75.49 per share whereas, on the same day all the other shareholders transferred their shareholdings to the assessee at Re.1 per share. He observed that when the market rate is Rs.75.49/share, the assessee has purchased the shares at less than the market price i.e., Re.1 per share and therefore, the transactions attract provisions of section 56(2) (viia) of the I.T. Act.

The assessee however argued that under section 56(2)(viia) FMV as calculated under Rule 11U is to be considered and not market price. And FMV of the shares were negative and hence the section has no applicability in the given case.

Judgement and Conclusion

The Tribunal on due consideration ruled that the action of AO was outside the ambit of law and only FMV under Rule 11U can be considered and not Market price. Hence dismissing appeal by the AO.

Application of Section on acquisition of shares before 1st July 2010.

M/S Nathoo Ram Nityanand Timber vs Department of Income Tax (ITAT Lucknow)

Date: 30th August 2016

Background

In the given case the assessee had acquired shares prior to notification of section 56(2) (viia), that is before 1st July 2010 however the said case came into consideration after the notification of said section the Assessing officer, reassessed the income of assessee giving impact of section 56 (2)(viia). Which was challenged by the assessee

Judgement and Conclusion

The ITAT upheld the argument forwarded by the assessee and ruled that in case transaction had been undertaken before the notification that is to say before 1st July 2020 that income would not be readjusted based on provisions of section 56(2)(viia).

Section 56 (2) (viib)

Where a company, not being a company in which the public are substantially interested, receives, in any previous year, from any person being a resident, any consideration for issue of shares that exceeds the face value of such shares, the aggregate consideration received for such shares as exceeds the fair market value of the shares:

Explanation. – For the purposes of this clause,—

(a)  the fair market value of the shares shall be the value—

(i)  as may be determined in accordance with such method as may be prescribed; or

(ii)  as may be substantiated by the company to the satisfaction of the Assessing Officer, based on the value, on the date of issue of shares, of its assets, including intangible assets being goodwill, know-how, patents, copyrights, trademarks, licences, franchises or any other business or commercial rights of similar nature,

whichever is higher

Important Ruling on Section 56(2) (viib)

 

Discretion of Assessee to choose method of Valuation

Cinestaan Entertainment P. Ltd vs. ITO (ITAT Delhi)

Date: June 27, 2019 

Background:

The assessee has the option under Rule 11UA (2) to determine the FMV by either the ‘DCF Method’ or the ‘NAV Method’. The AO has no jurisdiction to tinker with the valuation and to substitute his own value or to reject the valuation. He also cannot question the commercial wisdom of the assessee and its investors.

Judgement and Conclusion:

It is a well settled position of law with regard to the valuation, that valuation is not an exact science and can never be done with arithmetic precision.

Also, an important angle to view such cases, is that, here the shares have not been subscribed by any sister concern or closely related person, but by an outside investors like, Anand Mahindra, Rakesh Jhunjhunwala, and Radhakishan Damani who are one of the top investors and businessman of the country and if they have seen certain potential and accepted this valuation, then how AO or Ld. CIT(A) can question their wisdom.

Read our related write ups on the subject –

Electronic Mortgages: Towards a new trend in paperless mortgage lending

– Vinod Kothari

vinod@vinodkothari.com

Paperless lending based on e-agreements and electronic documentation seems to be the future. The mortgage market is seeing the emergence of electronic mortgage note called ENotes. ENotes, which are issued as electronic negotiable instruments, have become popular in the US mortgage market. The COVID pandemic has given strong push the popularity of contactless and paperless lending format in the mortgage market too.

Like the transfer of shares and bonds world-over has been replaced by demat trades, the replacement of paper mortgages may be replaced by electronic version, sooner than one can imagine.

Electronic documentation has been given legal validity in most countries world-over. The USA passed the Uniform Electronic Transactions Act (UETA) way back in 2000, and Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act (commonly known as the ESIGN Act) in the year 2000. Most countries have similar enabling laws[1]. These laws grant legal validity to electronic mortgage documentation too. Armed with this power, US national mortgage depository MERS® introduced electronic mortgages almost 16 years ago[2].  The Mortgage Industry Standards Maintenance Organization® (MISMO) eMortgage Community of Practice was formed in 2001 to develop standards for efficient eMortgage processes, transactions, and XML data protocol. However, eNotes surged during the pandemic months. It is reported that by end of May, 2020, there were 597,139 eNotes, with the numbers for Q1 of 2020 being 300% of the corresponding quarter in the previous year.

Concept of ENotes

The typical mortgage creation process in US practice, based on a loan for purchase of a house (“purchase money loan”) involves the creation of promissory note whereby the borrower passes possession/control of property documents to the lender, for the purpose of securing a loan. If the mortgage is transferred by the original lender, the promissory note is “indorsed” to the transferee. Under the ENote format, the mortgage is electronically signed and registered with MERS. The electronic mortgage is stored in an electronic vault maintained by MERS[3]. As the mortgage changes hands by way of transfer of the mortgage, the original lender’s name is replaced by transferee – as would have happened in case of dematerialised shares.

UETA and E-Sign laws facilitated the creation of electronic negotiable instruments by the concept of “transferable records”, which was intended to be an electronic version of the mortgage promissory note[4]. The transferable record methodology involves a depository called “controller” of the note, who is responsible for recording, registering and evidencing the transfers of interest in the note.

Judicial recognition of ENotes

Rulings such as New York Community Bank v. McClendon, 29 N.Y.S.3d 507 (N.Y. App. Div. 2016), and Rivera v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., 189 So. 3d 323, 329 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 2016) have recognised the right of an assignee of an eNote in taking foreclosure action. Courts have held that the assignee needs to establish that it is either the controller of the authoritative copy of the ENote or is the beneficiary thereof, and produces the paper trail of the transfers leading up to the right of the assignee.

Market acceptability of ENotes

Fannie Mae[5] and Ginnie Mae[6] started accepting ENotes. Ginnie Mae has started accepting ENotes only recently and as part of the initial phase, issuers may apply to participate as e-Issuers and begin securitizing government-backed mortgages comprised of digital collateral with Ginnie Mae approval.

However, it is stated that the real push to ENotes came in 2018 when Quicken Loans initiated a complete process of end-to-end electronic mortgage closing, called e-closing[7]. Quicken Loans launched a digital mortgage product called Rocket Mortgage, in November, 2015, presumably one that allows closing a mortgage in less than 10 minutes. In less than 2 years, Quicken Loans became the largest mortgage lender in the USA.

Remote Notarisation – the other part of the digital mortgage eco-system

To prove that a document is authentic in all its aspects, notarization is necessary. The new system of Remote Online Notarization (“RON”) was adopted back in 2010.

RON typically allows documents to be notarized in electronic form with the signer signing with an electronic signature and appearing before a commissioned electronic notary online via audio-video technology. This allows anyone with an Internet connection to get documents signed and notarized online.

This process has several benefits in terms of security and fraud prevention. RON has had growing acceptance in the US.

It is said that before Covid-19, ENotes were growing at a modest pace as the industry collaborated on solutions to facilitate broader adoption, including acceptance of RON[8].

Other Benefits of ENotes

Apart from the benefits already discussed above, the growing acceptance of ENotes has much to do with several other benefits as well, such as, reducing the operational costs, faster turnaround times, faster signing process, improved data quality and validation, etc.

These give ENotes the push towards a completely paperless mortgage process apart from the convenience factor.

Conclusion

Considering the more than $9 trillion size of US mortgage industry, digital mortgage lending is still a long way to go. Digital mortgages are still less than 5% of the total mortgage originations, whereas digital personal loans are close to 60% of the total loan originations.

The growing acceptance of ENotes is certainly providing the push required from the traditional to a completely “e” driven mortgage process.

[1] The eIDAS Regulation (Electronic Identification and Authentication and Trust Services) is the e-sign law in the EU. The Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA) is a similar law in Canada. The Electronic Transactions Act 1999 is the governing law in Australia.

[2] Refer to https://www.mersinc.org/index

[3] For a white paper on the ENote methodology, see here: https://www.mersinc.org/publicdocs/eNote_White_Paper.pdf

[4] See section 15 of UETA

[5] https://www.fanniemae.com/deliveremortgage/

[6] https://www.ginniemae.gov/newsroom/Pages/PressReleaseDispPage.aspx?ParamID=203

[7] https://www.housingwire.com/articles/48774-the-fully-digital-mortgage-has-truly-arrived-as-use-of-enotes-skyrockets-by-nearly-5000/

[8] https://cib.db.com/insights-and-initiatives/flow/trust-and-agency/digital-mortgages-come-of-age.htm#2

RBI lessons ARCs on fairness

A discussion on the fair practice code issued for ARCs

-Sikha Bansal and Kanakprabha Jethani

Introduction

Asset Reconstruction Companies (ARCs) are companies specializing in the business on acquiring non-performing assets and stressed assets of the banks and financial institutions and reconstructing them.

The Securitisation and Reconstruction of Financial Assets and Enforcement of Security Interest Act, 2002 (SARFAESI) accords the status of ‘financial institutions’ and ‘secured creditor’ to ARCs, such that an ARC acquiring bad loans is also able to exercise same rights and powers as the originator of the loan would have. This is explicitly stated in section 5 of SARFAESI.

Now, as they say, with great power, comes great responsibility; since, the business of ARCs involves frequent dealing with borrowers of loans, they must be guided by principles of fairness in their dealings with borrowers. Earlier, there were no guidelines with respect to fair practices of ARCs. However, after a gap of almost 20 years from the time the law was enacted, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) through a notification dated 16.07.2020[1], issued a Fair Practices Code (FPC) for ARCs. It is noteworthy that in this span of 20 years, around 28 ARCs have been registered in India[2] and have an AUM of USD 14,583 million[3]. Further, the role and involvement of ARCs have increased multifold with IBC proceedings.

The FPC seeks to ensure fairness as well as transparency in the operations of ARCs, and calls upon the ARCs to put in place board approved FPC, grievance redressal mechanisms, code of conduct for recovery agents, etc. However, what is more important is that the FPC sets out principles for ARCs for sale and purchase of assets, as discussed below.

Acquisition of assets: follow arm’s length principle

While acquiring any asset, an ARC should maintain transparency and follow arms’ length principle and shall ensure there is no discrimination between sellers in the process of acquisition.

Notably, RBI has already prohibited ARCs to have bilateral acquisitions (that is, one to one transactions) from certain connected entities, e.g. sponsor banks/FIs, and group entities[4], irrespective of the consideration involved. However, auction purchases are allowed provided the auction is transparent, is on arms’ length and price is determined by market forces. This essentially entails that the auctions should be widely publicised, be open to all interested parties and be transparent in terms of bids submitted.

Sale of assets: be transparent

ARC should enable the participation of as many prospective buyers they can, so that actual market value can be determined of any asset. For that, the invitation shall be made public. The extant guidelines for conduct of ARCs[5] also require sale of assets through public auction only. Thus, this is just a reiteration of the existing guidelines.

Further, while finalising the terms and condition for sale of underlying assets, the ARCs shall consult the investors of security receipts (SRs).

Besides, a crucial provision in the FPC is the reference to section 29A of the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016 (IBC), as discussed below.

The ‘spirit’ of section 29A

FPC mentions that the “spirit” of section 29A of IBC may be followed while dealing with prospective buyers”.

The reference to section 29A, most predictably, comes in the wake of rising involvement of ARCs in insolvency proceedings, either as sole or joint resolution applicants. Section 29A provides a list of persons who shall not be eligible to be a resolution applicant or a buyer of assets in case of a liquidation sale. The intent here seems to bar persons such as undischarged insolvents, wilful defaulters, a person whose accounts are classified as NPA, etc. from buying the assets. One concern with regard to section 29A is possible use of ARCs as devices to camouflage ineligible persons. Therefore, it is a logical and a positive step to add this restriction as a component of FPC for ARCs.

It is relevant to note that courts have held that the disability under section 29A is to be considered even where the sales are made by a secured creditor outside liquidation[6]. Say, what if the secured creditor assigns his rights and interest to an ARC? Will an ARC be debarred from selling the assets to a person hit by section 29A?

The issue has to be examined under two circumstances – first, where the borrower has been under insolvency proceedings of IBC and in case of liquidation, the secured creditor stands out of liquidation proceedings to sell the asset, and second, where there are no preceding IBC proceedings.

Considering the extant precedents surrounding section 29A, it can be contended that the contagion of section 29A might also hamper the freehand of ARCs in selling the assets whether or not the assets have been through IBC proceedings or not. However, one may note that the extant guidelines, on the contrary, permit the defaulting promoters to buy-back the assets from ARCs, provided the settlement is considered beneficial in certain respects[7].

Hence, ARCs would be required to take a balanced view on determining whether the sale is to be made to a prospective buyer or not. Notably, FPC does not impose section 29A, per se, on sales by ARCs, but advises the ARCs to follow the spirit of section 29A. The intent of section 29A has been to ensure that among others, persons responsible for insolvency of the corporate debtor do not participate in the resolution process[8].

Therefore, it may be contended that in case the assets are in or have passed through IBC proceedings, the provisions of section 29A will apply strictly, and in other cases, the ARCs should endeavour to abide by the intent of section 29A. The stance of the regulator may become clearer in due course of time.

Action points for ARCs

The following are actionables on the part of ARCs. We are of the view that, since the notification does not provide for any specific date of applicability, the same shall be immediately applicable. Hence, the FPC, incorporating the following, shall be formulated within reasonable time and may be adopted in the next board meeting.

Particulars Actionables
Measures to prevent harassment by recovery agents ·  Ensure that the staff and recovery agents are adequately trained to deal with customers and to handle their responsibilities with care and sensitivity, particularly in respect of aspects such as hours of calling, privacy of customer information

·  Adoption of code of conduct (as discussed above)

·  Ensure that the recovery agents and the staff of ARCs observe strict customer confidentiality.

·  Ensure that recovery agents do not induce adoption of uncivilized, unlawful and questionable behaviour or recovery process.

Charging of fees Put in place a board approved policy on management fee, expenses and incentives, if any, claimed from trusts under their management.
Outsourcing Put in place an outsourcing policy, approved by the Board, which incorporates, criteria for selection of activities to be outsourced as well as service providers, delegation of authority depending on risks and materiality and systems to monitor and review the operations of these activities/ service providers.
Grievance Redressal ·  Constitute a Grievance Redressal machinery which deals with the issue relating to services provided by the outsourced agency and recovery agents, if any.

·  Mention the name and contact number of designated grievance redressal officer of the ARC in communications with the borrowers.

Conclusion

As regards acquisition and realisation of assets, the extant directions provide for framing of acquisition policies and realisation plans. Further, as discussed, RBI from time to time, had been issuing directives regulating the sales by ARCs. The FPC, incorporating the provisions of section 29A, can be said to be an additional step in the same direction.

Insofar as conduct towards borrowers is concerned, before issue of the FPC for ARCs, there were no separate guidelines. However, this should not imply that ARCs were not required to act as such. As a matter of practice, the conduct of ARCs towards the borrowers should be guided by the behavioural principles and principles of fairness and equity.

The banks/financial institutions are anyway under the directions of RBI[9] to be fair in all respects in dealing with the borrowers. Therefore, it could not be said that an ARC which purchases loans from the banks/financial institutions could have all the powers of a secured lender but not the responsibilities. In the authors’ view, the responsibility to act fairly is tagged along with the right to enforce security. However, the FPC as issued now, concretises the concept of ‘fair practice’ for ARCs, and is a step in the right direction. With the FPC coming into force, practices of ARCs, which were earlier based on the market practice and varied largely, shall be unified.

[1] https://www.rbi.org.in/Scripts/NotificationUser.aspx?Id=11937&Mode=0

[2] List of ARCs on the website of the RBI (As in February 2020)

[3] https://www2.deloitte.com/content/dam/Deloitte/in/Documents/tax/in-tax-asset-reconstruction-companies-tax-regulatory-framework-noexp.pdf

[4] https://www.rbi.org.in/scripts/NotificationUser.aspx?Id=11749&Mod e=0

[5] https://www.rbi.org.in/Scripts/BS_ViewMasCirculardetails.aspx?id=9901

[6] NCLAT ruling- https://nclat.nic.in/Useradmin/upload/20572042075dd3e35176572.pdf

[7] See para 5 of the ARC Guidelines

[8] Swiss Ribbons Pvt. Ltd. vs Union Of India (https://indiankanoon.org/doc/17372683/)

[9] Guidelines on Fair Practices for lenders- https://www.rbi.org.in/scripts/NotificationUser.aspx?Id=3315&Mode=0 and;

Fair Practice Code for NBFCs- https://rbidocs.rbi.org.in/rdocs/notification/PDFs/45MD01092016B52D6E12D49F411DB63F67F2344A4E09.PDF

Evolution of securitisation – Genesis of MBS

finserv@vinodkothari.com

Securitisation as a concept, has a history of over 50 years. In this write up, the author traces the events leading up to the evolution of securitisation in 1970 with the issuance of the first MBS program by Ginnie Mae.

Intricacies of the Draft Framework on Sale of Loans

-Kanakprabha Jethani (kanak@vinodkothari.com)

Background

The draft framework for ‘Sale of Loan Exposures’[1] (‘Draft’) issued by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) recently provides a detailed framework for sale of all kinds of loan exposures viz. standard, stressed and NPLs. The RBI invited comments and suggestions from the stakeholders on the Draft and has raised a few specific questions for discussion in the Draft.

Presently, there are two separate guidelines, one for sale of standard assets (Direct Assignment guidelines) and one for sale of stressed assets and NPLs (Master Circular on Prudential norms on Income Recognition, Asset Classification and Provisioning pertaining to Advances[2])

While we have already prepared a comparative[3] and a detailed analysis[4] for sale of standard loans, we hereby provide an analysis of guidelines relating to sale of stressed assets and NPLs.

Understanding the Existing Framework

The existing framework for sale of loan exposures is posed in bits and pieces. The framework may broadly be understood in the following manner:

For sale of standard loans (this includes assets falling between 0-90 DPD) Guidelines on Transactions Involving Transfer of Assets through Direct Assignment (DA) of Cash Flows and the Underlying Securities- Provided in the Master Directions for NBFCs[5]
For Sale of stressed loans (this includes NPAs, SMA-2 and standard assets under consortium, 75% of which has been classified as NPA by other lenders and 75% of lenders by value agree to the sale to ARCs) ·        Para 6 of Master Circular – Prudential norms on Income Recognition, Asset Classification and Provisioning pertaining to Advances

·        Notification issued by the RBI on Prudential Framework for Resolution of Stressed Assets[6]

·        Notification issued by the RBI on Guidelines on Sale of Stressed Assets by Banks[7]

For Sale of NPLs (this includes assets falling in the 90+DPD bucket) ·        Para 7 of Master Circular – Prudential norms on Income Recognition, Asset Classification and Provisioning pertaining to Advances

·        Notification issued by the RBI on Guidelines on Sale of Stressed Assets by Banks

What does the Draft behold?

The Draft proposes a consolidated framework to govern sale of loan exposures and is a combination of certain existing guidelines and some newly introduced ones. Let us delve into key changes introduced in the Draft one by one.

Applicability

Seller

While the existing guidelines were specifically applicable to NBFCs, banks and other financial institutions, the applicability of the Draft is extended to SFBs and All India Financial Institutions (AIFIs) such as NABARD, NHB, SIDBI, EXIM Bank etc.

Purchaser

The existing guidelines were applicable to sale of loans by a financial entity to another. However, this did not prohibit sale of loans to non-financial entities. The only difference was that the rights under SARFAESI and other laws were impacted.

The Draft guidelines specifically state that the sale of sale of loans may be made by the entities mentioned above as sellers to any regulated entity, which is allowed by its statutory or regulatory framework to buy such loans.

Hence, any sale of loans, to entities whose regulatory/statutory framework does not allow such purchase, cannot be done. Further, sale of loan to entities whose regulatory/statutory framework allows such purchase, irrespective of whether such entity is a financial entity or not, shall be governed by the provisions of the Draft.

Nature of Assets

The Draft directions contain separate provisions for sale of standard assets, sale of stressed assets to ARCs and sale of NPAs. Under the existing framework, an asset was said to be standard, till it is classified as NPA i.e. after 90 DPD. The Draft defines stressed assets to include NPAs as well as SMA accounts. Thus, any 0+ DPD account becomes a stressed asset. Due to this, the provisions relating to sale of standard assets, which are broadly in line with the guidelines on DA, shall not apply on assets falling between 1 to 90 DPD.

Since the classification of the asset is strictly based on the number of days past due, it may raise various practical difficulties. For example, if the due date for repayment of a loan installment is January 1, 2020 and there is a grace period of 10 days. The loan is classified as SMA-0 on February 1, 2020 (irrespective of the fact that it is not even 30 days past the grace period) and now, the sale of such loan shall be as per the guidelines for sale of stressed assets.

Recourse against the Transferor/Originator

Under the existing guidelines, the sale to ARCs was allowed on a ‘with’ or ‘without’ recourse basis and sale of NPAs to parties other than ARCs was allowed on a non-recourse basis only. The Draft clearly states that any sale of loans shall be on a ‘without recourse’ basis only. While there will be no impact on sale of standard assets and sale NPAs to parties other than ARCs, the transactions of sale of stressed assets to ARCs shall certainly be affected.

Treatment of loans given for on-lending

The Draft contains specific provisions with respect to the loans that were granted by the originator for on-lending. Para 51 of the Draft states that “Lenders may also purchase stressed assets from other lenders even if such assets had been created out of funds lent by the transferee to the transferor subject to all the conditions specified in these directions.”

Let us take an example to understand this:

A is an NBFC, which has given out a loan amounting to Rs. 100 @ 5% p.a. to B, which is another NBFC. Now B, gives out loans of Rs. 20 each @ 7% p.a. to 5 individuals.

Now, A can purchase these 5 loans from B, when they become stressed i.e. 0+ DPD. Here, it is clearly visible that the risk undertaken by B has no risk at all. The funds for lending have been provided by A. B keeps the assets in its books only till they are standard. As soon as assets turn SMA-0, B will remove them from its books sell them off to A. Additionally, till the time assets were standard, B earned a spread of 2%.

Manner of Transfer

The Draft defines transfer as- “transfer” means a transfer of economic interest in loan exposures in the manner prescribed in these directions, and includes loan participations and transactions in which the loan exposure remains on the books of the transferor even after the said transaction.

Para 9 contradicts the definition, requiring a legal separation of the asset from the books of the transferor. Tis issue has been discussed at length in our write-up titled “Originated to transfer- new RBI regime on loan sales permits risk transfers.[8]

The Draft further specifies that the sale/transfer of loans may be done by way of assignment or novation. Presently, most of such transactions are effected through assignment only. The loan agreement usually contains a clause whereby the borrowers gives consent to the lender to sell the loan to a third party. In case such a clause is not there in the loan agreement, the sale of loan would require consent of all the parties to the agreement, including the borrower.  In this case, the transfer of loans will have to be effected through novation of the agreement.

The Draft simply clarifies that transfer may be done through either of the modes. We do not see any practical implication as such.

Asset Classification

The asset classification criteria has been divided into 2 categories:

  • If the transferee has existing exposure to the same borrower: The asset classification shall be the same as that of the existing exposure in books of the transferee
  • If the transferee does not have an existing exposure to the same borrower: The asset acquired shall be classified as standard and thereafter the classification shall be determined based on the record of recovery

If the existing exposure is not standard in the books, the asset classification of the acquired asset shall also be as per the existing exposure. This seems to be derived from the asset classification practices followed earlier to determine stress in the assets i.e. if the borrower is defaulting in one of the exposures, it is likely to delay/default in repayment of other exposures as well.

However, this shall increase the provisioning requirements for the transferee and thus, may be a demotivating factor for sale of stressed assets.

MHP requirements

The Draft extends MHP requirements to ARCs as well. The business of ARCs includes frequent selling and buying of loans and portfolios. Putting a holding requirement of 12 months may slow down the business.

On the other hand, this may ensure that ARCs put better recovery efforts, before selling the loans to other entities.

Reporting Requirements

The existing guidelines did not lay the responsibility of reporting to CIC on any of the parties. Thus, the same was determines by the agreement between the parties. Usually, in case of sale to ARCs, the reporting is done by the ARCs and in case of sale to banks/FIs, the reporting is done by the originator only (since originator usually acts as a servicer).

The Draft specifically lays the responsibility of reporting on the transferee. Reasonably, the servicer of the loans has entire information of the servicing of the loan, repayment patterns etc. and thus, is the most suitable party to do the reporting. Let us examine a few cases with regard to reporting:

Transferee Servicer Reporting Obligation on Remarks
ARC ARC ARC Since the ARC is servicing the loan, it shall be able to properly report the details to CICs
Bank/FI Originator Bank/FI The Bank/FI will have to obtain the servicing details from the originator and then report the same to CICs
Bank/FI Bank/FI Bank/FI Since the bank/FI is servicing the loan, it shall be able to properly report the details to CICs

Hence, the reporting obligation may be placed on the servicer or may be kept open for the parties to decide.

Realisation

The existing guidelines relating to sale of NPAs required the transferor to work out the NPV of the estimated cash flows associated with the realisable value of the assets net of the cost of realisation. At least 10% of the estimated cash flows should be realized in the first year and at least 5% in each half year thereafter, subject to full recovery within three years.

The above requirement is not there in the Draft, the reason for which is unknown.

The Draft provides that in case of sale to ARCs, if the ARC is not able to redeem the SRs/PTCs by the end of resolution period (obviously due to inadequate servicing of the loans) the liability against the same should be written off as loss.

Takeover of standard assets

The Draft allows all the regulated entities, other than the transferor, to take over the assets from ARCs, once they turn standard on successful implementation of resolution plan. Earlier only ARCs were allowed to buy assets from other ARCs. This is a welcome move as it will enable other financial entities to buy assets from ARCs.

Conclusion

The Draft has come with some interesting proposals and the RBI is yet to receive comments on the same from the industry. The representations from the industry and the response of the RBI on the same will formulate the new regime for securitisation.

 

Our other write-ups may be referred here:

http://vinodkothari.com/2020/06/draft-guidelines-on-securitisation-sale-of-loans-with-respect-to-rmbs-transactions/

http://vinodkothari.com/2020/06/presentation-on-draft-directions-on-securitisation-of-standard-assets/

http://vinodkothari.com/2020/06/presentation-on-draft-directions-on-sale-of-loans/

http://vinodkothari.com/2020/06/inherent-inconsistencies-in-quantitative-conditions-for-capital-relief/

http://vinodkothari.com/2020/06/comparison-of-the-draft-securitisation-framework-with-existing-guidelines-and-committee-recommendations/

http://vinodkothari.com/2020/06/originated-to-transfer-new-rbi-regime-on-loan-sales-permits-risk-transfers/

http://vinodkothari.com/2020/06/new-regime-for-securitisation-and-sale-of-financial-assets/

 

[1] https://www.rbi.org.in/Scripts/PublicationReportDetails.aspx?UrlPage=&ID=957

[2] https://www.rbi.org.in/Scripts/BS_ViewMasCirculardetails.aspx?id=9908#7

[3] http://vinodkothari.com/2020/06/originated-to-transfer-new-rbi-regime-on-loan-sales-permits-risk-transfers/

[4] http://vinodkothari.com/2020/06/comparison-on-draft-framework-for-sale-of-loans-with-existing-guidelines-and-task-force-recommendations/

[5]https://rbidocs.rbi.org.in/rdocs/notification/PDFs/45MD01092016B52D6E12D49F411DB63F67F2344A4E09.PDF

[6] https://www.rbi.org.in/Scripts/NotificationUser.aspx?Id=11580&Mode=0

[7] https://www.rbi.org.in/Scripts/NotificationUser.aspx?Id=10588&Mode=0

[8] http://vinodkothari.com/2020/06/originated-to-transfer-new-rbi-regime-on-loan-sales-permits-risk-transfers/

Udyam Registration Process

Watch our Youtube video explaining the entire Udyam Registration process here: https://youtu.be/dqm64_oTbnQ

Read our other resources on related topics here –

Recent Trends in Crypto-Industry: India & Abroad

-Megha Mittal

(mittal@vinodkothari.com)

“Opportunity amidst tragedy” would likely be the most suitable phrase to summarise the journey of cryptos during the Global Pandemic- with disruption taking a toll on people and economies, and physical proximities massively restrictred, cryptos have outshone traditional assets, by virtue of its inherent features- easy liquidity, access and digitalisation.

Further, as countries around the globe attempt to stimulate their economies by opening floodgates of liquid funds, the ‘digital natives’ have and are expected to increasingly venture into adventure-some investments- think, cryptos. And while such adventurous investing may be short-lived, the results may infact have a long-lasting impact- it is this expected impact that has sets the ‘bull’ stage for cryptos in times to come.

In this brief note, we cover the recent highlights and developments in the crypto-industry, also discussing developments in the relatively new concepts of stablecoins, crypto-lending.

Read more

Udyam Portal: The pristine MSME Registration Process

-Qasim Saif (finserv@vinodkothari.com)

The Indian government has been taking a number of measures to tackle the disruptions caused by the pandemic, giving special focus on small businesses. The small and medium size businesses form the backbone of any economy, specially developing economies like India, hence, the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) are seen as a key player in promoting momentum in economy once movement restrictions and social distancing norms are lifted. In order to stimulate the post-Covid economic scenarios, it is crucial to focus on the growth and development of the MSME sector.

The definition of MSME comes from section 7 of the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises Development Act, 2006 (‘Act’) . Based on the proposal of the Finance Minister, he Ministry of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises on 1st June 2020 via notification, amended the definition of MSME in order to increase the scope and hence bringing larger number of firms within the ambit of MSME. As per the revised definition, the classification is based on the investment and turnover of the entity.

The latest definition of MSME as per the notification is as follows-

Revised Classification applicable w.e.f 1st July 2020
Composite Criteria: Investment in Plant & Machinery/equipment and Annual Turnover
Classification Micro Small Medium
Manufacturing Enterprises and Enterprises rendering Services Investment in Plant and Machinery or Equipment:
Not more than Rs.1 crore and Annual Turnover; not more than Rs. 5 crores
Investment in Plant and Machinery or Equipment:
Not more than Rs.10 crore and Annual Turnover; not more than Rs. 50 crores
Investment in Plant and Machinery or Equipment:
Not more than Rs.50 crore and Annual Turnover; not more than Rs. 250 crores

The aforesaid definition removes the bifurcation of investment limits for Manufacturing and Service industry which were previously existent. Hence, it is expected that large number of service providers would be covered as they tend to have lesser investment in plant and machinery or equipment and turnover as compared to Manufacturing entity with similar profits.

As the changes in classification are to be applicable from 1st July 2020, the Ministry of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises have come up with a Notification dated 26-06-2020 which provide for a novel method of registration for MSME (‘Udyam Registration’).

The said notification provides for process for registration of MSME which shall become applicable from 1st July 2020, the requirement of Udyam Registration shall also be applicable on existing MSME’s.

Pursuant to the amendment in the definition of MSME and the introduction of procedure for filing the memorandum under the Udyam Registration, it seems that registration as an MSME shall be a necessity and accordingly be considered as a pre-requisite for availing benefit under the various schemes introduced by the Ministry.

The Process of Registration

Registration on the basis of self-declaration

As per the Udyam Registration requirement it is evident that Udyam Registration can be done on the basis of filing a self-declaration. The relevant extract of the notification states as follows-

“Any person who intends to establish a micro, small or medium enterprise may file Udyam Registration online in the Udyam Registration portal, based on self-declaration with no requirement to upload documents, papers, certificates or proof.”

On review of the registration process on the Udyam Registration portal, it is been observed that the list of major activities contains a specific head for trading activities, land transport as well as an option for selecting ‘Others’. Thus, it may be concluded that trading, transportation and such other activities are included under activities of a service enterprise and shall be required to be registered as an MSME on the Udyam Registration portal.

Requirement of Aadhar

The Aadhaar of following persons shall be required for registration as an MSME.

Type of Entity Aadhar of
Proprietorship Firm Proprietor
Partnership Firm Managing Partner
HUF Karta
Company / LLP / Co-operatives / Trust / Organisations* Authorised Signatory

*PAN and GSTIN of enterprise shall also be required

Non-Availability of Aadhar

In case the person does not have Aadhar, he/she can approach MSME-Development Institutes or District Industries Centres (Single Window Systems) with his Aadhaar enrolment identity slip or copy of Aadhaar enrolment request or bank photo pass book or voter identity card or passport or driving licence and the Single Window Systems will facilitate the process including getting an Aadhaar number and thereafter in the further process of Udyam Registration

Calculation of Investment in Plant, Machinery and Equipment, and Annual Turnover

In order to determine whether the enterprise falls within the limits of MSME and under which category Calculation of amount for Investment in Plant, Machinery and Equipment, and Annual Turnover is required to be calculated.

Plant, Machinery and Equipment.

The Plant, Machinery and Equipment shall have same meaning as under Income Tax Rules, 1962 hence not include land, building and furniture and fittings. Further it shall not include items mentioned in Explanation 1 to Section 7(1) of MSME Act 2006 shall be excluded.

All units with Goods and Services Tax Identification Number (GSTIN) listed against the same Permanent Account Number (PAN) shall be collectively treated as one enterprise and investment figures for all of such entities shall be seen together and only the aggregate values will be considered for deciding the category as micro, small or medium enterprise.

The calculation of investment in plant and machinery or equipment will be linked to the Income Tax Return (ITR) of the previous years. In case of a new enterprise, where no prior ITR is available, the investment will be based on self-declaration of the promoter of the enterprise and such relaxation shall end after the 31st March of the financial year in which it files its first ITR.

However, it shall be noted that in case of new enterprise without any ITR, where calculation is made on self-declaration basis, the purchase (invoice) value of a plant and machinery or equipment, whether purchased first hand or second hand, shall be taken into account excluding Goods and Services Tax (GST).

Turnover

On the similar grounds as investment the turnover shall also be calculated on collective basis for all units with Goods and Services Tax Identification Number (GSTIN) listed against the same Permanent Account Number (PAN) and all such units shall be treated as one enterprise and turnover figures for all of such entities shall be seen together and only the aggregate values will be considered for deciding the category as micro, small or medium enterprise.

Further it shall be noted that the Exports of goods or services or both, shall be excluded while calculating the turnover of any enterprise.
Information as regards turnover and exports turnover for an enterprise shall be linked to the Income Tax Act or the Central Goods and Services Act and the GSTIN. The figures of enterprise which do not have PAN will be considered on self-declaration basis for a period up to 31st March, 2021 and thereafter, PAN and GSTIN shall be mandatory.

Registration by existing MSMEs

In case of existing MSMEs, the registration shall be valid till March 2021. They are required to register themselves under the Udyam Registration portal before the expiry of their registration under Udyog Aadhaar or EM-II.

Updation of information

The registration as an MSME may be obtained based on a self-declaration by the applicant, without submitting any other documents, certificates or proofs of investment in plant and machinery or equipment or turnover. However, once the URM is granted, the MSME is required to update details on the portal, including details of the ITR and the GST Return for the previous financial year and such other additional information as may be required, on self-declaration basis.

Failure to update the relevant information within the period specified [to be specified] in the online Udyam Registration portal will render the enterprise liable for suspension of its status.

Changes in classification

On the basis of information furnished and updated from time to time as well as information from Government sources including ITR/GSTR the classification of enterprise may be changed to a lower to higher category (graduation) or from higher to lower category (reverse-graduation).

In case of graduation an enterprise will maintain its prevailing status till expiry of one year from the close of the year of registration. In case of reverse-graduation of an enterprise, the enterprise will continue in its present category till the closure of the financial year and it will be given the benefit of the changed status only with effect from 1st April of the financial year following the year in which change happened.

Accordingly, it can be inferred that the limits of investment and turnover shall be reckoned on the basis of the ITR and GST returns filed for the previous financial year.

Grievance redressal

The Champions Control Rooms functioning in various institutions and offices of the MSME-Development Institutes along with District Industries Centres in their respective districts shall act as Single Window Systems for facilitating the registration process and further handholding the micro, small and medium enterprises in all possible manner.

In case of any discrepancy or complaint, the General Manager of the District Industries Centre shall undertake an enquiry for verification of the details of Udyam Registration and thereafter forward the matter to the Director or Commissioner or Industry Secretary concerned of the State Government who after giving an opportunity to present its case and based on the findings, may amend the details or recommend to the Ministry of MSME’s, Government of India, for cancellation of the Udyam Registration Certificate.

Further it shall be noted that, if provision for registration under MSME Act, 2006, is violated Section 27 of the Act, provides for a fine which may extend upto one thousand rupees for first conviction and a fine ranging from one thousand to ten thousand rupees for second and subsequent conviction.

Conclusion

The new process provides an easy, quick and simple method for registration that will be linked to information submitted under Income Tax and GST, hence being user friendly as well as keeping a check on reliability of information. The move is intending to promote ease of doing business in lieu of the introduction of Atmanirbhar Bharat scheme.

This process and amended definition would help more MSME to take benefit of government schemes for MSME hence providing them an elevated pedestal to provide a push to kick-start economy after the covid restrictions are lifted.

 

Our other relevant articles may be referred here:

 

Partitioning of advisory services from distribution activities

– Harshil Matalia (finserv@vinodkothari.com)

Updated as on July 04, 2020

The Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) had notified SEBI (Investment Advisers) Regulations, 2013 (IA Regulations)[1] in 2013, to regulate activities of Investment Adviser (IA). IA is a person who provides investment advices with respect to financial and investment products to its clients for a consideration. Regulation 3 (1) of the IA Regulations mandates every person which acts as an IA or holds itself out as an IA to register itself unless the person is exempted from registration under regulation 4 of IA Regulations.

A series of consultation papers were issued in 2016, 2017 and 2018, which was followed by another consultation paper[2] proposing amendments in the IA regulations released by SEBI on January 15, 2020. Subsequently, SEBI in its meeting held on February 17, 2020[3] approved the proposals on regulatory changes based on comments received on consultation paper. On July 03, 2020, SEBI has amended IA regulations by introducing SEBI (IA)(Amendment) Regulations, 2020[4] (Amendment Regulations) which shall come into force from October 01, 2020. The main objective to bring such regulatory amendments is to protect the interest of investors and prioritize investors’ interest over the interest of IA.

This write-up provides a brief note on amendments brought by SEBI and its implications on the sector.

Segregation of Advisory & Distribution Activities

As per regulation 15(5) of the IA Regulations, there is an obligation on IA to disclose all conflicts of interest that arises while serving its clients. There is a possibility that IA would advise to invest in products which shall fetch maximum commission or products that may be risky and less sellable in the market. To overcome such a situation, IA must disclose potential conflict of interest to the client.

An IA may be engaged in activities other than investment advisory and hence it is necessary to ensure an arms-length relationship between its activities as an IA and other activities as prescribed under regulation 15(3). Individuals registered as IAs are not allowed to provide distribution or execution services under amended IA Regulations. However, corporate entities registered as IAs can offer execution or distribution services provided that the investment advisory services are offered through separate identifiable division or department.

Further as per recent amendments in Regulation 22 of IA Regulations, “family of IA” shall not provide distribution services to the same client advised by IA. SEBI has inserted a definition of ‘Family of IA’ which shall include individual IA, spouse, children and parents. SEBI has also prescribed the requirement for non-individual IAs to have client level segregation at a group level which means that client can either take advisory or distribution services from the IA and the same client cannot avail any other service, as the case may be, by the same IA or its group entities. Group for this purpose shall mean:

  1. For Company- an entity which is a holding, subsidiary, fellow subsidiary, associate or an investing company or venturer of the company as per the provisions of Companies Act, 2013 or;
  2. In any other case- an entity which has controlling interest or which is subject to controlling interest of a non-individual investment adviser.

Implementation of Advice (Execution)

IAs also offer implementation services to its clients i.e. execution of advice provided to the client by charging some reasonable consideration. Thus, the client finds ‘all in one shop’ by availing such services. It has been suggested that IA should clearly declare to the client that it will not seek any power of attorney or authorisations from its clients for auto implementation of investment advice. However, SEBI in Amendment Regulations emphasis that whether to avail implementation services would be sole choice of client and the IA cannot force its client to avail implementation services. Further, IA shall provide implementation services to its advisory clients only through direct schemes/products in the securities market. IA or group or family of IA shall not charge directly or indirectly any consideration including commission or referral fees for providing implementation services. SEBI has also mandated IAs to provide declaration that no consideration shall be received by IA for implementation of advice or execution services. The said declaration has been inserted under item 5 of the First schedule of IA Regulations.

Terms and Conditions of Investment Advisory Services

As per regulation 19, an IA shall maintain copy of agreement with the client, if any, along with other records specified under the said regulation. Since the requirement of advisory agreement is not mandatory under the erstwhile IA Regulations, most of the clients always remain unaware about the terms and conditions of the advisory services that they are going to obtain from IAs.

SEBI has been receiving numerous investor complaints against IAs that they charge exorbitant advisory fees, promising false returns, non-disclosure of detailed fees structure etc. In absence of written agreement between adviser and client, client may not be able to prove his claim.

Therefore, SEBI has mandated an execution of agreement between IA and client which shall specify key terms and conditions, as may be prescribed by SEBI, regarding investment advisory services and this would in turn facilitate transparency.

Advisory Fees

As per the Code of Conduct for IAs prescribed under third schedule of IA Regulations, IAs shall charge fair and reasonable fees to the clients in lieu of providing advisory fees. There have been several complaints received by SEBI regarding unreasonable fees being charged by IAs. To restrain such instances and unfair practices, SEBI has inserted Regulation 15A regarding advisory fees that can be charged by IAs to its clients.

The discussion paper has provided two modes of charging fees to clients. IAs can either charge fees by opting Assets under Advice (AUA) mechanism or they can charge fixed fees. SEBI inserted the definition of AUA in Regulation 2(aa) of IA Regulations which shall mean aggregate net asset value of securities and investment products for which IA has rendered investment advice irrespective of whether the implementation services are provided by investment adviser or concluded by the client directly or through other service providers. Under AUA mechanism, fees shall be charged on the basis of underlying assets under advice subject to maximum 2.5 percent of AUA per annum per family across all schemes/ products/ services provided. On other hand, as per fixed fees terms, IA can charge maximum Rs. 75,000 p.a. per family across all schemes/ products/ services provided. The option of choosing mode for charging fees is available with IA, however, change of mode can be effected only after 12 months of on boarding/last change of mode.

In practice, it would be difficult to implement maximum ceiling limit proposed by SEBI. There are certain portfolios that contain high risk products which requires effective skills and essential time to provide any investment advice. In such cases, maximum ceiling would be discouraging for IAs to charge a particular fees to compensate for their efforts. Therefore, in Board memorandum, SEBI has proposed to reconsider and enhance fixed fees from Rs. 75,000 to Rs. 1,25,000 p.a. per ‘family of client’ and fees under AUA mechanism shall be 2.5 percent of AUA per annum per ‘family of client’ across all schemes/ products/ services offered by IA. SEBI inserted a definition of ‘Family of client’ which constitutes individual, dependent spouse, dependent children and dependent parents. IAs would also be required to mention detailed fees structure along with adequate calculations under terms and conditions of advisory agreement. The above-mentioned proposed fees structure is not yet finalised; and is expected to be specified by the SEBI at the earliest. Also, SEBI is expected to bring more clarity that whether IA can charge fees using different fees structure to different categories of customers.

Eligibility Criteria for IAs

The eligibility criteria for IA includes qualification and net worth requirement. Under the erstwhile IA Regulations, regulation 7 and 8 deals with the qualification and net worth requirements respectively. IAs or a principal officer of non-individual IAs shall have minimum qualification as prescribed under the regulation 7.

SEBI has amended the qualification and net worth requirement. SEBI has introduced the definition of “persons associated with investment advice” and “principal officer” in Amendment Regulations. All client facing persons such as sale staff, service relationship managers, client relationship managers, etc. shall be deemed to be persons associated with investment advice, whereas principal officer shall mean managing director/managing partner, designated director etc. who is responsible for overall business operations of non-individual IAs. In terms of the erstwhile IA Regulations, IA shall have either professional qualification/post-graduation or graduation along with five year experience of advisory as mentioned in regulation 7(1). However, as per recent amendments, an individual IA and principal officer in case of non-individual IA shall be required to meet both the criteria that is to have professional qualification/post-graduation along with 5 years experience at all times. The requirement of certification on financial planning (NISM) remains unchanged.

In terms of the erstwhile IA Regulations, IAs which are body corporate shall have a net worth of not less than twenty-five lakh rupees and for IAs who are individuals or partnership firms shall have net tangible assets of value not less than rupees one lakh. However, SEBI has increased minimum net worth criteria to rupees fifty lakhs and rupees five lakhs for non-individual and individual IAs respectively. However, all persons associated with investment advice shall comply with the qualification requirements with minimum two years of experience. The existing IAs shall comply with new eligibility norms within 3 years from the date of commencement of Amendment Regulations. The summary of erstwhile eligibility criteria along with recent amendments is given below:

For Individual IAs

Requirement

Erstwhile

Amended

Persons associated with Investment Advice including representatives

Education

Professional qualification/post-graduation Professional qualification/post-graduation with 5 years of experience Professional qualification/post-graduation with 2 years of experience
Graduation with 5 years of experience

Certification

NISM NISM NISM

Net Worth

Rs. 1 lakh Rs. 5 lakhs

Not applicable

For Non-individual IAs

Requirement

Erstwhile for representatives

Amended for principal officer

Persons associated with Investment Advice including representatives

Education

Professional qualification/post-graduation Professional qualification/post-graduation with 5 years of experience Professional qualification/post-graduation with 2 years of experience
Graduation with 5 years of experience

Certification

NISM NISM NISM

Net Worth

Rs. 25 lakhs Rs. 50 lakhs

Not applicable

 

Use of Nomenclature

In order to obviate misunderstanding and confusion amongst investors regarding the roles and responsibilities of distributors including mutual fund distributors who refer to themselves as ‘independent financial adviser’ or ‘wealth adviser’, it is relevant that the nomenclature should not mislead the investors. Therefore, SEBI has inserted Regulation 3(3) which specifies that any person other than IA registered with SEBI, dealing in distribution of securities shall not use the nomenclature “Independent Financial Adviser (IFA) or Wealth Adviser or any other similar name.

Conversion of Individual IAs to Non-individual IAs

SEBI has inserted additional criteria under regulation 13 which directs individual IA to apply for registration as non-individual IA, in case number of clients of such individual IA exceeds 150 in total.

Conclusion

With these amendments, SEBI took efforts to make robust regulation for investment advisers. Some of the changes would definitely pick up the slacks, however, SEBI should reassess the proposal for ceiling limit on advisory fees and bring more clarity.

[1]https://www.sebi.gov.in/web/?file=https://www.sebi.gov.in/sebi_data/attachdocs/jun-2020/1591597643206.pdf#page=1&zoom=page-width,-15,842

[2]https://www.sebi.gov.in/reports-and-statistics/reports/jan-2020/consultation-paper-on-review-of-regulatory-framework-for-investment-advisers-ia-_45685.html

[3] https://www.sebi.gov.in/media/press-releases/feb-2020/sebi-board-meeting_46013.html

[4] http://egazette.nic.in/WriteReadData/2020/220363.pdf and https://www.sebi.gov.in/media/press-releases/jul-2020/sebi-notifies-amendments-to-sebi-investment-advisers-regulations-2013_47006.html