SEBI proposed amendments in PIT Regulation to incentivize Informants…

By Dibisha Mishra (dibisha@vinodkothari.com)

corplaw@vinodkothari.com

Introduction

SEBI’s recent Discussion Paper[i] on amendment to the SEBI (PIT) Regulations, 2015 presses the fact that mere Regulator’s watch on the illegal transactions are not enough to practically eliminate trading on the basis of UPSI. Wherein insiders are finding new ways to get into such illegal transactions including transactions through proxy, difficulty in tracking and proving the same even if they are tracked remains a challenge for SEBI. Hence, to ensure better tracking and maintain the integrity of the securities market, the regulator is intending to bring in informants to the stage. The informants shall basically be the employees or any other person who observes actual or suspected cases on insider trading. Such mechanism shall have a dedicated reporting window and also provide for near absolute confidentiality to so that the informants are not deterred by the fear of retaliation or discrimination or disclosure of personal data.

Is this altogether a new concept?

Such Informant Mechanism, is not a new concept brought in to tackle the issue of insider trading altogether. Several other regulation though out the globe have been following the same practice. One such example being UK’s Market Abuse Regulation (596/2014) which provides similar kind of reporting mechanism. This concept is similar to ‘Whistle Blower Policy’ for frauds as provided under the Companies Act, 2013. However, SEBI’s Informant Mechanism enables reporting to the regulator directly rather than routing the same to the Company’s management itself. It also takes a step further to incentivize the informants to encourage pro-active reporting.

Features

The salient features of the proposed Informant Mechanism shall be as follows:

  1. Voluntary Information Disclosure Form where information can be reported.
  2. Disclosure on source of information: The information should be original and not sourced from any other person
  3. Office of Informant Protection(OIP): A dedicated department separate from investigation and inspection wings.
  4. Submission of Information: either by himself or through a practicing advocate where the informant decides to report unanimously.
  5. Confidentiality of Informant shall be maintained throughout the proceedings, if any, initiated by SEBI unless evidence of such informant is required such proceedings.
  6. Information reported shall be taken up further if the same is material. Such information may further be forwarded to the operational department for suitable actions only after slashing down the identity details of the informant.
  7. Reporting of the functioning of OIP on an annual basis to SEBI.
  8. A dedicated hotline to guide persons on how to file information.
  9. Grant of reward where information provided as as per informant policy and amount of disgorgement exceeds Rs. 5 crores. The reward shall be paid from IEPF account.
  10. Provision for amnesty.

Few downsides

  1. Smaller cases nor covered: While the proposed Informant Reward Policy is headed to incentivize the informant to promote pro-active reporting of insider trading transactions which were earlier left undetected, the department also proposes to put the minimum threshold for the amount of disgorgement. Only those information revealing insider trading transaction amounting to Rupees Five Crores or more shall be taken up for the purpose of rewarding. This clause itself slashes down majority of comparatively smaller but rather more frequent transactions from coming under its purview.
  2. Material cases: Proposed policy states that only those cases that are material shall be processed further. The official who shall be responsible to determine whether the information is material is nowhere mentioned.
  3. Tracking System: The policy mentions no such system of tracking by the informants regarding the status of information by them.

Conclusion

The discussion paper indicates SEBI’s intention to buckle up its systems for tracking down insider trading transactions and take appropriate action. However, the extent to which the proposed policy gets implemented along with modifications, if any, is yet to be seen.

[i] https://www.sebi.gov.in/reports/reports/jun-2019/discussion-paper-on-amendment-to-the-sebi-prohibition-of-insider-trading-regulations-2015-to-provision-for-an-informant-mechanism_43237.html

Impact of the amendments in SEBI Regulations and the Companies Act, 2013 on the Policies and Codes of the Companies