Stop crazy lending, lazy lending, write Rajan and Acharya

– Vinod Kothari

vinod@vinodkothari.com

Raghuram Rajan and Viral Acharya, both having got the first-hand experience of holding the reins at the RBI, have prescribed several urgent measures to restore the health of the banking system. Neither do we have the fiscal space to support the banking system with fresh doses of capital, nor can we afford any more spikes in the almost top-of-the-world GNPA ratios. The duo, who have written several articles in the past, wrote this piece[1] on 21st Sept. 2020.

In a strongly worded write-up, the two celebrated academics of the financial world, have clearly taken it out on the bureaucracy and the government.  The authors say while advocacy for comprehensive banking sector reforms have been done in the past, the onus of not making it happen is clearly on the government itself: “There are strong interests against change, which is why many would-be reformers are cynical, and either have given up, or recommend revolutionary change that has little chance of being implemented. We are more optimistic that a middle road is achievable, given that the greatest stumbling block has been the government, the bureaucracy, and the interests within it. With the enormous strains on government finances from the slow growth pre-COVID and the subsequent effects of the pandemic, the country has to transform the banking

sector from being a drain on government resources and an impediment to growth to becoming an engine of growth. This will not happen through incremental reforms. The status quo is fiscally untenable.”

The authors are unsparing when they clearly say the Department of Financial Services should be scrapped. The authors recommend that “Winding down Department of Financial Services in the Ministry of Finance is essential, both as an affirmative signal of the intent to grant bank boards and management independence and as a commitment not to engage in “mission creep” when compulsions arise to use banks for serving costly social or political objectives.” They also say that despite clear recommendations of the Nayak Committee in 2014[2], nothing has changed in terms of autonomy of the banks in the country. The authors may be resonating the bitterness of many senior bankers when they say: “Parliamentarians of all parties are not immune to the lure of public sector banks – the banks are often asked to arrange the logistics for their fact-finding committee meetings in enjoyable locales across the country. And Finance Ministry bureaucrats are reluctant to let go of the power that allows a young joint secretary to order the chairpersons of national banks around”

No more crazy lending, lazy lending

Banks in India cannot afford to have the false sense of having safe assets by “lazy lending”. The term, coined by Dr Rakesh Mohan, the-then Deputy Governor of RBI[3], refers to bankers choosing to invest in risk-free government bonds, even when the opportunity cost of capital for them is much higher. At the same time, banks also cannot afford to do “crazy lending”, by lending to riskiest of borrowers as more credit-worthy borrowers choose to rely on capital markets, and thereby, pile up non-performing loans on their balance sheets.

Indian banks, particularly PSUs, have managed to pile up bad loans on their balance sheet. There were sizeable NPAs even before the Covid. Six months of covid-moratorium meant virtually no cashflows, and as the servicing burden on the borrowers has increased over these months, most banks will be forced to use the loan restructuring option following covid-disruption[4]. The contention that the covid-disruption will become the alibi to restructure loans that were even otherwise fragile does not require much evidencing.

Source: Handbook of statistics on the Indian Economy, 2019-20[5]

Rajan and Acharya refer to the well-known ever-greening problem of Indian banking – with the bankers supporting bad loans by sequential doses of further lending, and the promoters continuously stripping the assets out and diverting profits and cashflows, leaving the borrower to be a “zombie”. Authors say that banks, by keeping the zombies alive, do a double damage to the system – on one hand, the bankers continue to focus on bad loan management and therefore, spend less time and resources to creating healthy loans, and on the other, the presence of half-dead firms discourages healthy industries as well.

While banks over the world have converged to IFRS, which provides for an “expected loss” model, the Indian banking system is still driven by the regulatory requirement of provisioning, in form of the so-called IRAC (Income recognition and asset classification) norms. However, periodically, the RBI comes with schemes whereby banks can avoid classifying a loan as an NPA.

“With forbearance in the form of delayed provisioning, not only does the firm’s condition deteriorate, but the banker has to take a large loss when he eventually restructures the loan. So instead the banker holds off, under-provisioning mounts, and what was meant to be temporary regulatory forbearance inevitably creates banker demand for more, near-permanent forbearance”, say the authors. The authors say that fear-struck bankers are more comfortable in letting the NCLT process take over the bankers’ resolution, since, in that case, the decisions are made by the NCLT-appointed professional, and not by the bank, who may thus get sheltered by the proverbial 3 Cs that haunt bankers.

Arguing for the need to revisit sec. 29A of the Insolvency Code, Rajan and Acharya say that the provision are needed at the time when the defaulting borrower was to be prevented from buying bank his own assets and potentially scaring other buyers. But in the present scenario of pandemic stress, this will also prevent the promoter whose business faltered for no fault of his. The authors also reflect the reality when the say the NCLT “already has a large backlog of cases, some of which have dragged on for much longer than the targeted duration for bankruptcy. It cannot possibly handle the volume of distress that will have to be dealt with post-pandemic without a significant expansion of the number of its judges and benches. Unfortunately, the quantum of trained personnel that is needed may simply not exist.”

The authors also advocate the retention of the debtors’ control, at least in the post-pandemic restructurings. Notably, the creditors’ in control model that India has adopted, is inspired by the UK approach, whereas the USA has a debtor-in-control approach.

The authors are also in favour of a larger predominance of out-of-court resolutions: “Ideally though, there should be greater use of out-of-court restructuring and the NCLT should be used to stamp the out-of-court restructuring with legal finality. Only if an out-of-court restructuring could not be agreed upon between the creditors and the borrower would the firm be forced into a bankruptcy auction. The shadow of bankruptcy would then improve the ease and quality of the negotiation out of bankruptcy, as it does in other countries. But this requires bankers, especially public sector bankers, to be able to negotiate”

Creation of “bad bank”

The bad bank experience has had a limited success in India. IDBI created SASF in 2004. However, neither did it help the bad loans, nor IDBI. Subsequently, India has worked on a private sector model of so-called “bad banks”, in form of the ARCs. However, the transfer of loans to ARCs may mostly take the form of security receipts, which is paper-for-paper. It is only in the recent past that banks have insisted on all-cash loan transfers.

Hence, authors argue that what may be more effective is a transparent market for bad loans. Notably, the draft Directions for Sale of Loans, issued by the RBI for public comments on 08th June, 2020[6], provided, among other things, an auction-based disposal of bad loans. There is apparently also a discussion on permitting foreign investors to invest in bad loans directly.

Additionally, the authors also suggest the creation of a “public credit registry”. Currently, there are multiple registries in India working with significant overlaps and lack of cohesiveness. CERSAI, NeSL, and CRILC are such registries, each intended to serve different purposes. However, it will not be a high hanging fruit to combine them into a loan registry, where the information about a loan, its collateral, performance, etc. are all pooled into a single database. Authors say that KAMCO, Korea, after completion of its asset management task, is now evolving itself into a loan registry.

Authors suggest that selling of loans will bring transparency and price discovery. Currently, RBI’s regulatory framework has been restraining banks from selling loans, mainly on the concerns of originate-to-hold model.

The authors contend that if a transparent pricing could emerge by creating a secondary market, a bad bank could emerge by the market mechanism itself. These market-based bad banks can have sectoral focus, rather than a generic pool of NPAs as is currently the case. The authors also cite global examples of warehousing bad loans to find a more opportune time for disposing them.

Move from asset-based lending to cashflow-based lending

Lending can be, as it traditionally has been, focused on the on-balance sheet assets and collateral, or may be focused on the cashflows of the business. In case of asset-based lending, the lender focuses on balance sheet ratios such as leverage and loan-to-value. In cash-flow based lending approach, the lender focuses on liquidity and debt-servicing ability.

An RBI Expert Group led by Shri U K Sinha recommended a cash-flow based lending structure for MSME funding[7].

Recently, large Indian banks announced plans to move to cashflow-based lending, such as SBI. SBI Chairman Rajnish Kumar stated “SBI will switch to a cash flow-based lending model beginning April 2020 from a mechanism where loans are given against assets”[8].

The authors have recommended a transition from asset based lending to (also) cash flow based lending. The authors mention that “Banks could rely more on loan covenants for large borrowers, tied to liquidity and leverage ratios (instead of lending purely against assets). This would set up “trip wire” points for enhancing loan collateralization, rather than requiring it from the beginning; in case of small borrowers, reliance on GST invoices and utility payment bills, among other cashflow information, can facilitate such a transition.”

Group-lending limits

The authors talk about the problem relating to certain promoters running large conglomerates while sitting on thin slices of equity. Due to this the following problems are highlighted by the authors, namely, a) this creates systemic risk in the banking system, b) leads to concentration of corporate power and a complex maze of related party transactions between financial and real subsidiaries of the group that are often the veil behind which frauds are perpetrated.

The authors recommend that highly indebted groups should not be allowed to expand their footprint significantly by using bank money to bid on new projects. Group lending norms should be enforced as the economy recovers. Further, the authors state that aggregate permissible system exposures should be linked to the aggregate debt equity ratio for the group (including non-bank borrowing and foreign borrowing). Over-leveraging by specific promoters or groups needs to be limited if the Indian banking system’s health is to be restored.

[1] https://faculty.chicagobooth.edu/-/media/faculty/raghuram-rajan/research/papers/paper-on-banking-sector-reforms-rr-va-final.pdf

[2] https://rbidocs.rbi.org.in/rdocs/PublicationReport/Pdfs/BCF090514FR.pdf

[3] https://www.rbi.org.in/scripts/BS_SpeechesView.aspx?Id=310

[4] https://www.rbi.org.in/Scripts/NotificationUser.aspx?Id=11941&Mode=0

Our write up & FAQs on the framework may be viewed here: http://vinodkothari.com/2020/08/resolution-framework-for-covid-19-related-stress-resfracors/

http://vinodkothari.com/2020/09/faqs-on-resolution-of-loan-accounts-under-covid-19-stress/

[5] https://rbidocs.rbi.org.in/rdocs/Publications/PDFs/58TB5A66F26A72F460687373406F1D51C43.PDF

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

[7] https://www.rbi.org.in/Scripts/PublicationReportDetails.aspx?UrlPage=&ID=924

[8] https://www.financialexpress.com/industry/banking-finance/sbi-to-shift-to-cash-flow-based-lending-by-april-2020/1797095/

RBI refines the role of the Compliance-Man of a Bank

Notifies new provisions relating to Compliance Functions in Banks and lays down Role of CCO.

By:

Shaivi Bhamaria | Associate

Aanchal Kaur Nagpal | Executive

Introduction

The recent debacles in banking/shadow banking sector have led to regulatory concerns, which are reflected in recent moves of the RBI. While development of a robust “compliance culture” has always been a point of emphasis, RBI in its Discussion Paper on “Governance in Commercial Banks in India’[1] [‘Governance Paper’] dated 11th June 2020 has dealt extensively with the essentials of compliance function in banks.  The Governance Paper, while referring to extant norms pertaining to the compliance function in banks, viz. RBI circulars on compliance function issued in 2007[2] [‘2007 circular’] and 2015[3] [‘2015 circular’], placed certain improvement points.

In furtherance of the above, RBI has come up with a circular on ‘Compliance functions in banks and Role of Chief Compliance Officer’ [‘2020 Circular’] dated 11th September, 2020[4], these new guidelines are supplementary to the 2007 and 2015 circulars and have to be read in conformity with the same. However, in case of or any common areas of guidance, the new circular must be followed.  Along with defining the role of the Chief Compliance Officer [‘CCO’], they also introduce additional provisions to be included in the compliance policy of the Bank in an effort to broaden and streamline the processes used in the compliance function.

Generally, in compliance function is seen as being limited to laying down statutory norms, however, the importance of an effective compliance function is not unknown. The same becomes all-the-more paramount in case of banks considering the critical role they play in public interest and in the economy at large. For a robust compliance system in Banks, an independent and efficient compliance function becomes almost indispensable. The effectiveness of such a compliance function is directly attributable to the CCO of the Bank.

Need for the circular

The compliance function in banks is monitored by guidelines specified by the 2007 and 2015 circular. These guidelines are consistent with the report issued by the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision (BCBS Report)[5] in April, 2005.

While these guidelines specify a number of functions to be performed by the CCO, no specific instructions for his appointment have been specified. This led to banks following varied practices according to their own tailor-made standards thus defeating the entire purpose of a CCO. Owing to this, RBI has vide the 2020 circular issued guidelines on the role of a CCO, in order to bring uniformity and to do justice to the appointment of a CCO in a bank.

Background of CCOs

The designation of a CCO was first introduced by RBI in August, 1992 in accordance with the recommendations of the Ghosh Committee on Frauds and Malpractices in Banks. After almost 15 years, RBI introduced elaborate guidelines on compliance function and compliance officer in the form of the 2007 circular which was in line with the BCBS report.

According to the BCBS report:

‘Each bank should have an executive or senior staff member with overall responsibility for co-ordinating the identification and management of the bank’s compliance risk and for supervising the activities of other compliance function staff. This paper uses the title “head of compliance” to describe this position’.

Who is a CCO and how is he different from other compliance officials?

The requirement of an individual overseeing regulatory compliance is not unique to the banking sector. There are various other laws that the provide for the appointment of a compliance officer. However, there is a significant difference in the role which a CCO is expected to play. The domain of CCO is not limited to any particular law or its ancillaries, rather, it is all pervasive. He is not only responsible for heading the compliance function, but also overseeing the entire compliance risk[6] in banks.

Role of a CCO in a Bank:

The predominant role of a CCO is to head the compliance function in a Bank. The 2007 circular lays down the following mandate of a CCO:

  1. overall responsibility for coordinating the identification and management of the bank’s compliance risk and supervising the activities of other compliance function staff.
  2. assisting the top management in managing effectively the compliance risks faced by the bank.
  3. nodal point of contact between the bank and the RBI
  4. approving compliance manuals for various functions in a bank
  5. report findings of investigation of various departments of the bank such as at frequent intervals,
  6. participate in the quarterly informal discussions held with RBI.
  7. putting up a monthly report on the position of compliance risk to the senior management/CEO.
  8. the audit function should keep the Head of compliance informed of audit findings related to compliance.

The 2020 circular adds additional the following responsibilities on the CCO:

  1. Design and maintenance of compliance framework,
  2. Training on regulatory and conduct risks,
  3. Effective communication of compliance expectations

Selection and Appointment of CCO:

The 2007 circular is ambiguous on the qualifications, roles and responsibilities of the CCO. In certain places the CCO was referred to as the Chief Compliance officer and some places where the words compliance officer is used. This led to difficulty in the interpretation of aspects revolving around a CCO. However, the new circular gives a clear picture of the expectation of RBI from banks in respect of a CCO. The same has been listed below:

Basis 2020 circular 2007 circular
Tenure Minimum fixed tenure of not less than 3 years The Compliance Officer should be appointed for a fixed tenure
Eligibility Criteria for appointment as CCO The CCO should be the senior executive of the bank, preferably in the rank of a General Manager or an equivalent position (not below two levels from the CEO). The compliance department should have an executive or senior staff member of the cadre not less than in the rank of DGM or equivalent designated as Group Compliance Officer or Head of Compliance.
Age 55 years No provision
Experience Overall experience of at least 15 years in the banking or financial services, out of which minimum 5 years shall be in the Audit / Finance / Compliance / Legal / Risk Management functions. No provision

 

Skills Good understanding of industry and risk management, knowledge of regulations, legal framework and sensitivity to supervisors’ expectations No provision
Stature The CCO shall have the ability to independently exercise judgement. He should have the freedom and sufficient authority to interact with regulators/supervisors directly and ensure compliance No provision
Additional condition No vigilance case or adverse observation from RBI, shall be pending against the candidate identified for appointment as the CCO. No provision
Selection* 1.      A well-defined selection process to be established

2.      The Board must be required to constitute a selection committee consisting of senior executives

3.      The CCO shall be appointed based on the recommendations of the selection committee.

4.      The selection committee must recommend the names of candidates suitable for the post as per the rank in order of merit.

5.      Board to take final decision in the appointment of the CCO.

No provision
Review of performance appraisal The performance appraisal of the CCO should be reviewed by the Board/ACB No provision
Reporting lines The CCO will have direct reporting lines to the following:

1.      MD & CEO and/or

2.      Board or Audit Committee

No provision
Additional reporting In case the CCO reports to the MD & CEO, the Audit Committee of the Board is required to meet the CCO quarterly on one-to-one basis, without the presence of the senior management including MD & CEO. No provision
Reporting to RBI 1.      Prior intimation is to be given to the RBI in case of appointment, premature transfer/removal of the CCO.

2.      A detailed profile of the candidate along with the fit and proper certification by the MD & CEO of the bank to be submitted along with the intimation, confirming that the person meets the supervisory requirements, and detailed rationale for changes.

No provision
Prohibitions on the CCO 1.      Prohibition on having reporting relationship with business verticals

2.      Prohibition on giving business targets to CCO

3.      Prohibition to become a member of any committee which brings the role of a CCO in conflict with responsibility as member of the committee. Further, the CCO cannot be a member of any committee dealing with purchases / sanctions. In case the CCO is member of such committees, he may play only an advisory role.

No provision

*The Governance paper had proposed that the Risk Management Committee of the Board will be responsible for selection, oversight of performance including performance appraisals and dismissal of a CCO. Further, any premature removal of the CCO will require with prior board approval. [Para 9(6)] However, the 2020 circular goes one step further by requiring a selection committee for selection of a CCO.

Dual Hatting

Prohibition of dual hatting is already applicable on the Chief Risk Officer (‘CRO’) of a bank. The same has also been implemented in case the of a CCO.

Hence, the CCO cannot be given any responsibility which gives rise to any conflict of interest, especially the role relating to business. However, roles where there is no direct conflict of interest for instance, anti-money laundering officer, etc. can be performed by the CCO. In such cases, the principle of proportionality in terms of bank’s size, complexity, risk management strategy and structures should justify such dual role. [para 2.11 of the 2020 circular] 

Role of the Board in the Compliance function

Role of the Board

The bank’s Board of Directors are overall responsible for overseeing the effective management of the bank’s compliance function and compliance risk.

Role of MD & CEO

The MD & CEO is required to ensure the presence of independent compliance function and adherence to the compliance policy of the bank.

Authority:

The CCO and compliance function shall have the authority to communicate with any staff member and have access to all records or files that are necessary to enable him/her to carry out entrusted responsibilities in respect of compliance issues.

Compliance policy and its contents

The 2007 circular required banks to formulate a Compliance Policy, outlining the role and set up of the Compliance Department.

The 2020 circular has laid down additional points that must be covered by the Compliance Policy. In some aspects, the 2020 circular provides further measures to be taken by banks whereas in some aspects, fresh points have been introduced to be covered in the compliance policy, these have been highlighted below:

1. Compliance philosophy: The policy must highlight the compliance philosophy and expectations on compliance culture covering:

  • tone from the top,
  • accountability,
  • incentive structure
  • Effective communication and Challenges thereof

2. Structure of the compliance function: The structure and role of the compliance function and the role of CCO must be laid down in the policy

3. Management of compliance risk: The policy should lay down the processes for identifying, assessing, monitoring, managing and reporting on compliance risk throughout the bank.

The same should adequately reflect the size, complexity and compliance risk profile of the bank, expectations on ensuring compliance to all applicable statutory provisions, rules and regulations, various codes of conducts and the bank’s own internal rules, policies and procedures and must create a disincentive structure for compliance breaches.

4. Focus Areas: The policy should lay special thrust on:

  • building up compliance culture;
  • vetting of the quality of supervisory / regulatory compliance reports to RBI by the top executives, non-executive Chairman / Chairman and ACB of the bank, as the case may be.

5. Review of the policy: The policy should be reviewed at least once a year

Quality assurance of compliance function

Vide the 2020 circular, RBI has introduced the concept of quality assurance of the compliance function Banks are required to develop and maintain a quality assurance and improvement program covering all aspects of the compliance function.

The quality assurance and improvement program should be subject to independent external review at least once in 3 years. Banks must include in their Compliance Policy provisions relating to quality assurance.

Thus, this would ensure that the compliance function of a bank is not just a bunch of mundane and outdated systems but is improved and updated according to the dynamic nature of the regulatory environment of a bank.

Responsibilities of the compliance function

In addition to the role of the compliance function under the compliance process and procedure as laid down in the 2007 the 2020 circular has laid down the below mentioned duties and responsibilities of the compliance function:

  1. To apprise the Board and senior management on regulations, rules and standards and any further developments.
  2. To provide clarification on any compliance related issues.
  3. To conduct assessment of the compliance risk (at least once a year) and to develop a risk-oriented activity plan for compliance assessment. The activity plan should be submitted to the ACB for approval and be made available to the internal audit.
  4. To report promptly to the Board/ Audit Committee/ MD & CEO about any major changes / observations relating to the compliance risk.
  5. To periodically report on compliance failures/breaches to the Board/ACB and circulating to the concerned functional heads.
  6. To monitor and periodically test compliance by performing sufficient and representative compliance testing. The results of the compliance testing should be placed before the Board/Audit Committee/MD & CEO.
  7. To examine sustenance of compliance as an integral part of compliance testing and annual compliance assessment exercise.
  8. To ensure compliance of Supervisory observations made by RBI and/or any other directions in both letter and spirit in a time bound and sustainable manner.

 Actionables by Banks:

Links to related write ups –

[1] https://www.rbi.org.in/Scripts/BS_PressReleaseDisplay.aspx?prid=49937

[2] https://www.rbi.org.in/Scripts/NotificationUser.aspx?Id=3433&Mode=0

[3] https://www.rbi.org.in/Scripts/NotificationUser.aspx?Id=9598&Mode=0

[4] https://www.rbi.org.in/Scripts/NotificationUser.aspx?Id=11962&Mode=0

[5] https://www.bis.org/publ/bcbs113.pdf

[6]  According to BCBS report, compliance risk is the risk of legal or regulatory sanctions, material financial loss, or loss to reputation a bank may suffer as a result of its failure to comply with laws, regulations, rules, related self-regulatory organization standards, and codes of conduct applicable to its banking activities”

Moratorium Scheme: Conundrum of Interest on Interest

Siddhart Goel

finserv@vinodkothari.com

Introduction

On September 03, 2020 the Hon’ble Supreme Court (the “court”) while dealing with several petitions on account of Covid related stress from various stakeholders, passed an interim order that that the accounts which have not declared NPA till August 31, 2020 shall not be declared NPA till further orders of the court.[1] Further in its September 10, 2020 order the court asked the government and RBI to file affidavit within two weeks to the court, on issues raised and relief granted thereto.[2]

The primary contention raised before the court for consideration was that the moratorium postpones the burden and does not eases the plight. It would be a double whammy on borrowers since Banks are charging compounded interest, and banks have benefitted during moratorium by charging compounded interest from customers.  The court in its order dated September 10, 2020 observed that individuals are more adversely affected during this period of pandemic. Therefore, the court from the government and RBI, with regard to charging of compound interest and credit rating/downgrading during moratorium period, has sought specific instructions.

Though the matter is sub judice, this write-up aims to provide a legal analyses to the contentions raised in front of the court on the above counts, since any action or direction on the above issues will have an impact on the wider financial system including all, i.e. borrowers, government, banks and other financial institutions as a whole.

Before directly getting into the analyses, it is important to consider material reliefs and incentives announced by RBI and Government of India in respect to COVID19 related regulatory package. A brief history of timelines on series of regulatory reforms to cope with the disruptions caused due to COVID19 is provided below:

 

Waiver of Interest on Interest during moratorium and Systemic Implications

The moratorium scheme deferred the repayment schedule for loans, and the residual tenor, was to be shifted across the board. This essentially meant that all the liabilities of customers towards their repayments (principal plus interests) were to be rescheduled and shifted across the board by the Banks and NBFCs. However, the scheme clearly stipulated that the interest should continue to accrue on the outstanding portion of the term loans during the moratorium period. Moratorium granted to the customers of banks and NBFCs was to reprieve borrowers from any immediate liability to pay. However, charging of interest on outstanding accrued amount is the center of concern in the matter.

The money has time value, which is often expressed as interest in banking parlance. This is one of the most fundamental principles in finance.  Rupee 1 today is more valuable from a year today. If interest is not paid, when it accrues, this in effect means, right to receive interest, which is a predictable stream of cash flow, is not available for reinvestment. Therefore, interest earned but not paid, should earn interest until paid. In debt markets, an obligation towards debt is valued in reference to yield to maturity or present value, all these rest on the compounding interest. These are generally in form of obligations on Banks and NBFCs on the liability side of their balance sheet. Bank deposits and interest thereon also attracts interest, which is adjusted towards total deposit amount of the customer. Therefore, interest on interest is a rule in finance and not a selective event.

Banking is no different to any other commercial business, besides it involves liquidity and maturity transformation and hence is highly leveraged. The short-term demand deposits from customers are converted into long-term loans to borrowers (‘maturity transformation’). Similarly, the customer deposits (liabilities of banks) are payable on demand, while on asset side receivables (repayment of principal and interest) are fixed on due dates (‘liquidity transformation’). It would be wrong to presume that NBFCs are any different from commercial banks. NBFCs largely rely on borrowings from Banks and other financial institutions by way of issuing debt instruments (CP, bonds, etc.), which is reflected on the asset side of the investing commercial banks and other financial institutions. Though obligation of payment on these debt instruments is not payable on demand, but they carry a substantial roll over and default risk.  Hence, these institutions are highly leveraged and inherently fragile by nature of their business. Needless to state that receivables on asset side of banks and NBFC also carry certain risk of default and therefore are inherently risky in nature.

Financial institutions and other investors in market, (like Money Market Funds, Pension funds and etc.) invest in debt of Banks and NBFCs on the basis of strength of assets held by them. These assets are in form of receivables from pool of loans or by way advances to underlying borrowers. Thus, participants in financial markets are highly interlinked and are adversely affected by asset deterioration as a rule. Banks and financial institutions bear credit risk (default risk) of the underlying borrowers on their balance sheet. This credit risk has already increased substantially and would be unfolding further due the impact of pandemic on wider economy.

The waiver of interest charged on interest accrued but not paid during the moratorium, would not only be a loss for the banks and NBFCs, but would also substantially dilute the value of assets held by them. This could lead to an asset liability mismatch on balance sheets of banks. Such waiver of interest on accrued amount could exacerbate the risk of banks and NBFCs defaulting on other financial institutions (‘systemic risk’). The foregoing of charging of interest on interest accrued during moratorium would mean banks and financial institutions partially baling out borrowers either from their own limited funds or from the borrowed funds of other financial institutions. Such a move could entail systemic risk and wider financial catastrophe. As risk of default from comparatively large diversified group of borrowers will be shifted and get concentrated in the balance sheets of banks and financial institutions.

Credit Rating Downgrades and Stressed Assets Resolution

The RBI moratorium notification dated March 27, 2020, freezes the delinquency status of the loan accounts, which have availed moratorium benefit under the scheme. This essentially meant that asset classification standstill will be imposed for accounts where the benefit of moratorium have been extended.[3] As it stands, the RBI, March 27, 2020 circular clearly stipulated that moratorium/deferment/recalculation of loans is provided to borrowers to tide over economic fallout due to COVID and same shall not be treated as concession or change in terms and conditions due to financial difficulty of the borrower.  In essence the rescheduling of payments and interest is not a default and should not be reported to Credit Information Companies (CICs).  A counter obligation on CIC was also imposed to ensure credit history of the borrowers is not impacted negatively, which are availing benefits under the scheme. The relevant excerpt from the notification stipulates as follows:

 “7. The rescheduling of payments, including interest, will not qualify as a default for the purposes of supervisory reporting and reporting to Credit Information Companies (CICs) by the lending institutions. CICs shall ensure that the actions taken by lending institutions pursuant to the above announcements do not adversely impact the credit history of the beneficiaries.”

 Further through notifications dated August 06, 2020 RBI introduced a special window scheme for Resolution of stress on account of COVID 19 (“Special Window”). Banks and financial institutions could restructure the eligible accounts under the Special Window without any asset classification downgrade of borrowers. The Special Window scheme included personal loans to individuals and other corporate exposures. It is relevant to realize that the resolution of stressed assets is highly subjective to borrower’s leverage, sector specific risks, and other financial parameters. Banks and Financial institutions are better placed to implement the resolution or restructuring of the assets (loan accounts) at bank level.

The moratorium scheme and the Special Window resolution framework dated August 06, 2020 (the “Schemes”) were highlights of discussions during the court proceedings extensively. The primary contentions were in respect to limited applicability of these schemes. The schemes and their benefits were available to borrowers whose accounts were standard and not more than 30 DPD as on March 01, 2020 with their respective banks and financial institutions.  Though the legal validity of the schemes were questioned directly in front of the court, but selective nature of schemes conferring benefit on to standard accounts (which are not more than 30 DPDs) only. The exclusion of other borrower accounts was criticised extensively.  But this could form as a part of separate issue, the primary concern here being asset down gradation and credit rating scores.

The Special Window restructuring scheme notification under its disclosures and credit reporting section made an onus on lending institutions to make disclosures on such re-structured assets in their annual financial statements along with other disclosures. However where accounts have been restructured under special facility, and involve ‘renegotiations’, it shall qualify as restructuring and the same shall be governed under credit information polices as applicable. The relevant clause is produced as is herein below:

 “54. The credit reporting by the lending institutions in respect of borrowers where the resolution plan is implemented under this facility shall reflect the “restructured” status of the account if the resolution plan involves renegotiations that would be classified as restructuring under the Prudential Framework. The credit history of the borrowers shall consequently be governed by the respective policies of the credit information companies as applicable to accounts that are restructured.” 

It is argued that the area of application and scope of both the schemes are entirely exclusive and independent remedies available to respective eligible borrowers. Under moratorium scheme the borrower gets benefit of liquidity since all the payments due during the period are deferred. While in the latter, i.e. restructuring scheme the borrower under stress can get their accounts restructured by way of implementing resolution plan without facing any asset classification downgrade upfront. In the latter case, only such restructurings involving ‘renegotiations’ will affect the credit history of the borrowers.

Conclusion

The intention of the RBI and the government was to provide relief to the borrowers, who were gasping for relief after the disruptions caused due to COVID 19. There is no doubt that the COVID-19 outbreak and subsequent lockdown has impacted all level of borrowers, ranging from small to large borrowers, including, individuals to corporates. It would be wrong to presume that those accounts, which were NPA or otherwise ineligible under the schemes, are not affected by the pandemic. Therefore it is always open for the government and RBI to introduce or implement any other scheme or some sort of reprieving mechanism for the ineligible borrowers. However, it is important to consider that even banks and financial institutions are no exception like any other businesses that have been affected by the pandemic; moreover they have been exposed to severe liquidity crunch and on the flip side are witnessing asset quality problems on their balance sheets. Any attempts to tamper or distort with the fundamental principle of finance (‘interest on interest’) or shifting the burden of it on banks and other financial institutions could have a much wider systemic ramifications than the current economic stress.

[1] https://main.sci.gov.in/supremecourt/2020/11127/11127_2020_34_16_23763_Order_03-Sep-2020.pdf

[2] https://main.sci.gov.in/supremecourt/2020/11127/11127_2020_36_1_23895_Order_10-Sep-2020.pdf

[3] Our detailed write up asset classification standstill is available at < http://vinodkothari.com/2020/04/the-great-lockdown-standstill-on-asset-classification/>

Udyam becomes mandatory: RBI clarifies Lenders’ stand

-Kanakprabha Jethani and Anita Baid (finserv@vinodkothari.com)

Background

On June 26, 2020, the Ministry of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MoM) released a notification[1] changing the definition of MSMEs and introducing a new process for MSME registration. The notification also stated that the existing MSME registrations (i.e. Udyog Aadhaar Number (UAN) or Enterprise Memorandum (EM)) shall be invalid after March 31, 2021. While the enterprises have to obtain Udyam Registration, the RBI has also made it mandatory for the lenders to ensure that their MSME borrowers have obtained the registration. The RBI through its notification dated August 21, 2020, has provided certain clarifications on its existing guidelines and stated clearly the things to be taken care of by the lenders. The following write-up intends to provide an understanding of the said clarifications and analyze them at the same time.

Udyam Registration to be the only valid proof

Under the existing framework for MSME registration, MSME borrowers had an option to provide either their Udyog Aadhaar Number (UAN), Entrepreneurs Memorandum (EM) or a proof of investment in plant and machinery or equipment being within the limits provided in the erstwhile definition along with a self-declaration of being eligible to be classified as an MSME. However, since the MoM notification stated that the UAN or EM shall be valid only till March 31, 2021, the MSMEs will have to compulsorily get registered under the Udyam portal, as per the revised definition. Hence, the lenders shall before March 31, 2021, obtain Udyam Registration proof from their existing as well as new borrowers.

In case of loans whose tenure shall end before March 31, 2021, the above requirement may not be relevant i.e. to obtain Udyam Registration since the existing registration submitted earlier by the borrowers shall be valid till the expiry of the loan tenure.

Pursuant aforesaid notifications, it seems that from March 31, 2021, Udyam Registration shall be the only valid proof for an entity to be recognized as an MSME. In such a case, it is pertinent to note that a notification issued by Ministry of MSMEs on July 17, 2020[2], which provides a list of activities that are not covered under Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises Development Act, 2006 (MSMED Act) for Udyam Registration. The list of activities is as follows:

  • Forestry and logging
  • Fishing and aquaculture
  • Wholesale and retail trade and repair of motor vehicle and motorcycles
  • Wholesale trade except of motor vehicles and motorcycles
  • Retail trade except of motor vehicles and motorcycles
  • Activities of households as employees for domestic personnel
  • Undifferentiated goods and services producing activities of private households for own use

A major section of Indian business in small or micro businesses involved in trading activities. Will keeping them outside the coverage of registration mean they don’t get benefits as that of registered MSMEs?

Let us understand the same by analysing the provisions of various schemes introduced by the Government.

Relevance of definition under the MSMED Act

The notification of Ministry of MSME dated January 10, 2017[3] provides that every micro, small and medium engaged in the manufacturing of goods or rendering of services with total investment in plant and machinery below the limit specified in section 7 of the said Act, shall file the memorandum. This makes it evident that the requirement for registration is mandatory for all MSMEs defined under section 7 of the MSMED Act.

However, various schemes introduced for MSMEs either refer to the definition of MSMEs provided in the MSMED Act or make reference to the limits specified under the MSMED Act or specifically include certain categories of entities under its scope. Let us look at some of these schemes[4] that are extending benefits to MSMEs and their eligibility criteria.

Bank loans to MSMEs under Priority Sector

Bank loans to MSMEs, for both manufacturing and service sectors, are eligible to be classified under the priority sector as per the norms provided by the RBI[5].

Till 2009, there was a separate category for retail trade which included retail traders/private retail traders dealing in essential commodities (fair price shops), and consumer co-operative stores. The same was included in the category of MSEs later through a notification[6] issued by the RBI.

However, from 2013 onward[7], for MSE lending, the reference was made to the MSMED Act for the investment limits in case of manufacturing and service sector.

However, the PSL Directions refer to the investment limits for determining the MSME classification and there was no explicit requirement to have UAN/URN. For the purpose of classification under PSL, it is implicit that the definition of MSME should come from the MSMED Act.

Post the amended definition of MSME and the 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 by lenders.

Interest Subvention Scheme

The ‘Interest Subvention Scheme for Incremental Credit to MSMEs, 2018’ was notified to Scheduled Commercial Banks and NBFCs which specifically required the MSMEs to be registered for being eligible under the scheme. The guidelines were further modified by SIDBI in December 2019 and notified by RBI in February 2020[8], wherein the requirement of Udyog Aadhaar Number (UAN) was dispensed with for units registered for Goods and Service Tax (GST).

Further, enterprises that are not registered under GSTN were allowed to either submit Income Tax Permanent Account Number (PAN) or their loan account should be categorised as MSME by the concerned bank. Trading activities without UAN were also allowed to avail the benefit under this scheme. Therefore, for the purpose of this scheme, the registration under the MSMED Act is not mandatory.

Consequently, enterprises engaged in trading activities can also avail the benefit of this scheme.

One-time Restructuring

RBI vide its notification dated February 07, 2018[9], provided relief for MSME borrowers registered under Goods and Services Tax (GST), to support these entities in their transition to a formalised business environment.

In furtherance to the aforesaid notification, the notification dated June 6, 2018[10] extended the scope to all MSMEs, including those not registered under GST, as a standard asset.

By virtue of another notification dated January 1, 2019[11], RBI permitted a one-time restructuring of existing loans to MSMEs classified as ‘standard’ without a downgrade in the asset classification. This was further extended vide notification dated February 11, 2020[12] and August 6, 2020[13]. The extension notifications make reference to the initial January 2019 notification for the detailed instructions wherein it refers to MSME as defined under the MSMED Act. Further, the notifications require the MSME to be GST registered unless otherwise exempted from GST registration. Hence, GST registration is not mandatory to avail the one-time restructuring benefit. However, MSME registration seems to be compulsory given the reference to the MSMED Act.

Credit Guarantee Fund Scheme for Micro and Small Enterprises-I (CGS-I)

The scheme defines eligible borrower as-New or existing Micro and Small Enterprises, as defined in the Act, to which credit facility has been provided by the lending institution without any collateral security and/or third-party guarantees.

Subsequently, MSE Retail Trade was added vide a circular[14] issued by Credit Guarantee Fund Trust for Micro and Small Enterprises (CGTMSE) under its ambit for fresh credit facilities eligible for guarantee coverage. Explicit inclusion of retail trade clarifies that benefits of this scheme shall be available to retail traders as well, subject to conditions provided in the scheme.

Credit Guarantee Fund Scheme for Micro and Small Enterprises-II (CGS-II for NBFCs)

The definition of eligible borrowers under this scheme is the same as that of CGS-I. Initially, the eligibility criteria specifically excluded retail trade and registration was a mandatory requirement under the scheme. Later on, the scheme was amended to do away with the registration requirement and specifically include MSE retail trade in its ambit.

Given the August notification issued by RBI, it is clear that the intention of the RBI is to ensure that lending institutions, such as banks and NBFCs, obtain Udyam Registration Certificate from the borrowers to pass on the benefits provided by the RBI.

Hence, unless a scheme specifically provides the inclusion of activities that are not eligible for registration or does not mandate the requirement of registration as an MSMC, one shall refer to the definition provided under the MSMED Act. Further, in case of reference it made of the MSMED Act, it can be implied that registration is a mandatory requirement.

Is PAN and GSTIN mandatory?

Based on MoM notification, Udyam Registration can also be obtained on a self-declaration basis[15]. The notification states-

“The turnover related figures of such 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

Further, RBI notification states-

“Udyam Registration Certificate’ issued on self-declaration basis for enterprises exempted from filing GSTR and / or ITR returns will be valid for the time being, up to March 31, 2021.”

A plain reading of these provisions would bring one to a conclusion that in order to obtain registration as an MSME, one would be required to mandatorily obtain PAN and GSTIN. However, going by the principle, the law itself exempts certain classes of persons to obtain PAN and/or GSTIN. It would be counter-intuitive to draw upon a compulsion on such persons to obtain PAN and GSTIN for the purpose of getting registered as an MSME.

As discussed above, the one-time restructuring benefit introduced by RBI requires the MSME to be GST registered unless otherwise exempted from GST registration. However, for the purpose of the registration as an MSME without GST registration ( in case exempted), there is still a lack of clarity.

The lenders would obviously expect clarification from the MoF or the MoM on the applicability of this clause on persons not required to obtain PAN or GSTIN. In the absence of any clarification or leeway specified for such persons, the lenders would be bound to ensure that their borrowers obtain Udyam Registration using PAN and GSTIN.

Connecting the Disconnect

In 2017, the RBI issued a notification[16] providing a list of documents to be relied upon and method for calculation of the value of plant and machinery or equipment. As per the notification, the purchase value of the plant and machinery or equipment shall be considered and not the book value (purchase value minus depreciation).

However, the Udyam registration process considers the value of plant and machinery or equipment based on the ITR filed by the enterprise. The ITR contains the value of machinery left after deducting depreciation i.e. Written Down Value (WDV).

This created a disconnect between the earlier RBI guidelines and the process of registration. Considering this disconnect, the RBI on July 2, 2020, released a notification[17] with the updated definition and directives for calculation of investment in plant and machinery or equipment, which is in line with the MoM notification. Further, the RBI has clarified that the existing guidelines provided in the 2017 notification shall be superseded by the July 2, 2020 notification.

Conclusion

While the RBI has made an effort to clarify the stand of lenders and things to be done by them owing to the change in the definition of MSMEs, a few operational difficulties still persist, specifically relating to obtaining the PAN and GSTIN. It is clear that the motive of the government behind introducing consistent developments for MSMEs is to uplift the small businesses in the country. The lending market awaits clarifications/ reliefs from the government on these operational difficulties. A relief from the government will be a step in the direction of better financial inclusion.

 

[1] https://rbidocs.rbi.org.in/rdocs/content/pdfs/IndianGazzate02072020.pdf

[2] https://udyamregistration.gov.in/docs/OM_UAN_17_7_2020.pdf

[3] http://dcmsme.gov.in/Reviesd_UAM_Noti_222017.pdf

[4] Details of various schemes for MSMEs can be referred here- http://vinodkothari.com/2020/05/primer-on-msme-financing/

[5] The conditions may be referred to from the Master Circular for PSL- https://www.rbi.org.in/Scripts/NotificationUser.aspx?Id=10497&Mode=0

[6] https://www.rbi.org.in/Scripts/NotificationUser.aspx?Id=5280&Mode=0

[7] Refer notification- https://www.rbi.org.in/Scripts/BS_ViewMasCirculardetails.aspx?id=8191

[8] https://www.rbi.org.in/Scripts/NotificationUser.aspx?Id=11803&Mode=0– the notification was however addressed to banks and not NBFCs

[9] https://www.rbi.org.in/Scripts/NotificationUser.aspx?Id=11216&Mode=0

[10] https://www.rbi.org.in/Scripts/NotificationUser.aspx?Id=11289&Mode=0

[11] https://www.rbi.org.in/Scripts/NotificationUser.aspx?Id=11445&Mode=0

[12] https://www.rbi.org.in/Scripts/NotificationUser.aspx?Id=11808&Mode=0

[13] https://www.rbi.org.in/Scripts/NotificationUser.aspx?Id=11942&Mode=0

[14] https://www.cgtmse.in/files/Circular_No.141.pdf

[15] Read the detailed process here- http://vinodkothari.com/2020/07/udyam-portal-the-pristine-msme-registration-process/

[16] https://www.rbi.org.in/Scripts/NotificationUser.aspx?Id=11050&Mode=0

[17] https://www.rbi.org.in/Scripts/NotificationUser.aspx?Id=11951&Mode=0

 

Decriminalization of offences under commercial laws- A step further towards ease of doing business

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/

Special Liquidity Scheme – providing short term liquidity relief for NBFCs

Timothy Lopes | Senior Executive

Vinod Kothari Consultants

finserv@vinodkothari.com

In light of the disruption caused by the pandemic, the Government of India announced a Rs. 20 lakh crores economic stimulus package. The first of the several reforms were announced on 13th May, 2020 which announced the Emergency Credit Line, the partial credit guarantee scheme 2.0 (PCG 2.0), TLTRO 2.0 and much more.

The PCG 2.0 scheme permitted banks to purchase CPs and bonds issued by NBFCs/MFIs/HFCs. These purchases were then guaranteed by the Government of India up to 20% of the first loss. For more details of the scheme see our write up here.

The announcement also proposed launching a Rs. 30,000 crores “Special Liquidity Scheme” for NBFCs/HFCs including MFIs. The Cabinet approved this scheme on 20th May, 2020[1].

On 1st July, 2020, RBI has released the details of the Special Liquidity Scheme[2]. The scheme is intended to avoid potential systemic risk to the financial sector. The scheme seems to be a short term relief for NBFCs acting as a bail-out package for near term maturity debt instruments. The scheme is intended to supplement the existing measures already introduced by the Government.

The scheme will provide liquidity to eligible NBFCs defined in the notification which is similar to the eligibility criteria specified under the PCG 2.0 scheme. The Government will implement the scheme through SBICAP which is a subsidiary of SBI. SBICAP has set up a SPV called SLS Trust to manage the operations. More details about the trust can be found on the website of SBICAP[3].

Under the scheme, the SPV will purchase the short-term papers from eligible NBFCs/HFCs.  RBI will provide liquidity to the Trust depending on actual purchases by the Trust. The utilisation of proceeds from the scheme will be only towards the sole purpose of extinguishing existing liabilities.

Eligible instruments

Instruments eligible for the scheme are relatively short term. The scheme specifies that CPs and NCDs with a residual maturity of not more than three months (90 days) and rated as investment grade will be eligible instruments. These dates, however, may be extended by Government of India. The SPV would invest in securities either from the primary market or secondary market subject to the conditions mentioned in the Scheme.

The actual investment decisions will be taken by the Investment Committee of the SPV.

Validity of the Scheme

The scheme is available only up to 30th September, 2020 as the SPV will cease to make purchases thereafter and would recover all the dues by 31st December, 2021 or any other date subsequently modified.

Investment by the SPV

The SPV set up under the scheme comprises of an investment committee. The investment committee will decide the amount to be invested in a particular NBFC/HFC. The FAQs available on the website of SBICAPs specifies that the Trust shall invest not more than Rs. 2000 crores on any one NBFC/HFC subject to them meeting conditions specified in the scheme. The Trust may have allocation up to 30% to NBFCs/HFCs with asset size of Rs. 1000 crores or less.

Rate of Return and collateral

Rate of Return (RoR) and other specifics under the scheme will likely be based on mutual negotiation between the NBFCs and the trust. According to the FAQs, the yield on securities invested by SPV shall be decided by the Investment Committee subject to the provisions of the scheme.

The Trust may also require an appropriate level of collateral from the NBFCs/ HFCs as specified under the FAQs.

Conclusion

The scheme is a welcome move likely to provide sufficient liquidity to the NBFC sector for the near term and act as a bail-out package for their short term liabilities.

The press release dated 20th May, 2020, approving the Special Liquidity Scheme states that “Unlike the Partial Credit Guarantee Scheme which involves multiple bilateral deals between various public sector banks and NBFCs, requires NBFCs to liquidate their current asset portfolio and involves flow of funds from public sector banks, the proposed scheme would be a one-stop arrangement between the SPV and the NBFCs without having to liquidate their current asset portfolio. The scheme would also act as an enabler for the NBFC to get investment grade or better rating for bonds issued. The scheme is likely to be easier to operate and also augment the flow of funds from the non-bank sector.”

Our related write ups may be viewed below –

http://vinodkothari.com/2020/05/pcg-scheme-2-0-for-nbfc-pooled-assets-bonds-and-commercial-paper/

http://vinodkothari.com/2020/05/guaranteed-emergency-line-of-credit-understanding-and-faqs/

http://vinodkothari.com/2020/05/self-dependent-india-measures-concerning-the-financial-sector/

http://vinodkothari.com/2020/04/would-the-doses-of-tltro-really-nurse-the-financial-sector/

[1] https://pib.gov.in/PressReleasePage.aspx?PRID=1625310

[2] https://www.rbi.org.in/Scripts/NotificationUser.aspx?Id=11925&Mode=0

[3] https://www.sbicaps.com/index.php/sls-trust/

RBI guidelines on governance in commercial banks

Vinita Nair | Senior Partner

Vinod Kothari & Company

vinita@vinodkothari.com

Extension of FPC on lending through digital platforms

A new requirement or reiteration by the RBI?

– Anita Baid (finserv@vinodkothari.com)

Ever since its evolution, the basic need for fintech entities has been the use of electronic platforms for entering into financial transactions. The financial sector has already witnessed a shift from transactions involving huge amount of paper-work to paperless transactions[1]. With the digitalization of transactions, the need for service providers has also seen a rise. There is a need for various kinds of service providers at different stages including sourcing, customer identification, disbursal of loan, servicing and maintenance of customer data. Usually the services are being provided by a single platform entity enabling them to execute the entire transaction digitally on the platform or application, without requiring any physical interaction between the parties to the transaction.

The digital application/platform based lending model in India works as a partnership between a tech platform entity and an NBFC. The technology platform entity or fintech entity manages the working of the application or website through the use of advanced technology to undertake credit appraisals, while the financial entity, such as a bank or NBFC, assumes the credit risk on its balance sheet by lending to the customers who use the digital platform[2].

In recent times many digital platforms have emerged in the financial sector who are being engaged by banks and NBFCs to provide loans to their customers. Most of these platforms are not registered as P2P lending platform since they assist only banks, NBFCs and other regulated AIFIs to identify borrowers[3]. Accordingly, electronic platforms serving as Direct Service Agents (DSA)/ Business Correspondents for banks and/or NBFCs fall outside the purview of the NBFC-P2P Directions. Banks and NBFCs have th following options to lend-

  1. By direct physical interface or
  2. Through their own digital platforms or
  3. Through a digital lending platform under an outsourcing arrangement.

The digitalization of credit intermediation process though is beneficial for both borrowers as well as lenders however, concerns were raised due to non-transparency of transactions and violation of extant guidelines on outsourcing of financial services and Fair Practices Code[4]. The RBI has also been receiving several complaints against the lending platforms which primarily relate to exorbitant interest rates, non-transparent methods to calculate interest, harsh recovery measures, unauthorised use of personal data and bad behavior. The existing outsourcing guidelines issued by RBI for banks and NBFCs clearly state that the outsourcing of any activity by NBFC does not diminish its obligations, and those of its Board and senior management, who have the ultimate responsibility for the outsourced activity. Considering the same, the RBI has again emphasized on the need to comply with the regulatory instructions on outsourcing, FPC and IT services[5].

We have discussed the instructions laid down by RBI and the implications herein below-

Disclosure of platform as agent

The RBI requires banks and NBFCs to disclose the names of digital lending platforms engaged as agents on their respective website. This is to ensure that the customers are aware that the lender may approach them through these lending platforms or the customer may approach the lender through them.

However, there are arrangements wherein the platform is not appointed as an agent as such. This is quite common in case of e-commerce website who provide an option to the borrower at the time of check out to avail funding from the listed banks or NBFCs. This may actually not be regarded as outsourcing per se since once the customer selects the option to avail finance through a particular financial entity, they are redirected to the website or application of the respective lender. The e-commerce platform is not involved in the entire process of the financial transaction between the borrower and the lender. In our view, such an arrangement may not be required to be disclosed as an agent of the lender.

Disclosure of lender’s name

Just like the lender is required to disclose the name of the agent, the agent should also disclose the name of the actual lender. RBI has directed the digital lending platforms engaged as agents to disclose upfront to the customer, the name of the bank or NBFC on whose behalf they are interacting with them.

Several fintech platforms are involved in balance sheet lending. Here, the lending happens from the balance sheet of the lender however, the fintech entity is the one assuming the risk associated with the transaction. Lender’s money is used to lend to customers which shows up as an asset on the balance sheet of the lending entity. However, the borrower may not be aware about who the actual lender is and sees the platform as the interface for providing the facility.

Considering the risk of incomplete disclosure of facts the RBI mandates the disclosure of the lender’s name to the borrower. In this regard, the loan agreement or the GTC must clearly specify the name of the actual lender and in case of multiple lender, the name along with the loan proportion must be specified.

Issuance of sanction letter

Another requirement prescribed by the RBI is that immediately after sanction but before execution of the loan agreement, a sanction letter should be issued to the borrower on the letter head of the bank/ NBFC concerned.

Issue a sanction letter to the borrower on the letterhead of the NBFC may seem illogical since the lending happens on the online platform. The sanction letter may be shared either through email or vide an in-app notification or otherwise. Such sanction letter shall be issued on the platform itself immediately after sanction but before execution of the loan agreement.

Further, the FPC requires lender NBFCs to display annualised interest rates in all their communications with the borrowers. However, most of the NBFCs show monthly interest rates in the name of their ‘marketing strategy’. This practice though have not been highlighted by the RBI must be taken seriously.

Sharing of loan agreement

The FPC laid down by RBI requires that a copy of the loan agreement along with a copy each of all enclosures quoted in the loan agreement must be furnished to all borrowers at the time of sanction/ disbursement of loans. However, in case of lending done over electronic platforms there is no physical loan agreement that is executed.

Given that e-agreements are generally held as valid and enforceable in the courts, there is no such insistence on execution of physical agreements. The electronic execution versions are more feasible in terms of cost and time involved. In fact in most of the cases, the loan agreements are mere General Terms and Conditions (GTC) in the form of click wrap agreements.

Usually, the terms and conditions of the loan or the GTC is displayed on the platform wherein the acceptance of the borrower is recorded. In such a circumstance, necessary arrangements should be made for the borrower to peruse the loan agreement at any time. The loan agreement may also be in the form of a mail containing detailed terms and conditions, along with an option for the borrower to accept the same.

The requirement from compliance perspective is to ensure that the borrower has access to the executed loan agreement and all the terms and conditions pertaining to the loan are captured therein.

Monitoring by the lender

Effective oversight and monitoring should be ensured over the digital lending platforms engaged by the banks/ NBFCs. As RBI does not regulate the platform entities, hence the only way to regulate the transaction is though the lenders behind these platforms.

The outsourcing guidelines require the retention of ultimate control of the outsourced activity with the lender. Further, the platform should not impede or interfere with the ability of the NBFC to effectively oversee and manage its activities nor shall it impede the RBI in carrying out its supervisory functions and objectives. These should be captured in the servicing agreement as well as be implemented practically.

Grievance Redressal Mechanism (GRM)

Much of the new-age lending is enabled by automated lending platforms of fintech companies. The fintech company is the sourcing partner, and the NBFC is the funding partner. However, the grievance of the customer may range from issue with the usage of platform to the non-disclosure of the terms of loan.

A challenge that may arise is to segregate the grievance on the basis of who is responsible for the same- the platform or the lender. There must be proper mechanism to ensure such segregation and adequate efforts shall be made towards creation of awareness about the grievance redressal mechanism.

[1] Read our detailed write up here- http://vinodkothari.com/2020/03/moving-to-contactless-lending/

[2] Read our detailed write up here- http://vinodkothari.com/2020/03/fintech-regulatory-responses-to-finnovation/

[3] RBI’s FAQs on P2P lending platform- https://www.rbi.org.in/Scripts/FAQView.aspx?Id=124

[4] Read our detailed write up here- http://vinodkothari.com/2019/09/the-cult-of-easy-borrowing/

[5] https://www.rbi.org.in/Scripts/NotificationUser.aspx?Id=11920&Mode=0