Posts

RBI granted moratorium on term loans: Impact on securitisation and direct assignment transactions

Abhirup Ghosh

abhirup@vinodkothari.com

In response to the stress caused due to the pandemic COVID-19, the regulatory authorities around the world have been coming out relaxations and bailout packages. Reserve Bank of India, being the apex financial institution of the country, came out a flurry of measures as a part of its Seventh Bi-Monthly Policy[1][2], to tackle the crisis in hand.

One of the measure, which aims to pass on immediate relief to the borrowers, is extension of moratorium on term loans extended by banks and financial institutions.  We have in a separate write-up[3] discussed the impact of this measure, however, in this write-up we have tried to examine its impact on the securitisation and direct assignment transactions.

Securitisation and direct assignment transactions have been happening extensively since the liquidity crisis after the failure of ILFS and DHFL, as it allowed the investors to take exposure on the underlying assets, without having to take any direct exposure on the financial intermediaries (NBFCs and HFCs). However, this measure has opened up various ambiguities in the structured finance industry regarding the fate of the securitisation or direct assignment transactions in light of this measure.

Originators’ right to extend moratorium

The originators, will be expected to extend this moratorium to the borrowers, even for the cases which have been sold the under securitisation. The question is, do they have sufficient right to extend moratorium in the first place? The answer is no. The moment an originator sells off the assets, all its rights over the assets stands relinquished. However, after the sale, it assumes the role of a servicer. Legally, a servicer does not have any right to confer any relaxation of the terms to the borrowers or restructure the facility.

Therefore, if at all the originator/ servicer wishes to extend moratorium to the borrowers, it will have to first seek the consent of the investors or the trustees to the transaction, depending upon the terms of the assignment agreement.

On the other hand, in case of the direct assignment transactions, the originators retain only 10% of the cash flows. The question here is, will the originator, with 10% share, be able to grant moratorium? The answer again is no. With just 10% share in the cash flows, the originator cannot alone grant moratorium, approval of the assignee has to be obtained.

Investors’ rights

As discussed above, extension of moratorium in case of account sold under direct assignment or securitisation transactions, will be possible only with the consent of the investors. Once the approval is placed, what will happen to the transactions, as very clearly there will be a deferral of cash flows for a period of 3 months? Will this lead to a deterioration in the quality of the securitised paper, ultimately leading to a rating downgrade? Will this lead to the accounts being classified as NPAs in the books of the assignee, in case of direct assignment transactions?

Before discussing this question, it is important to understand that the intention behind this measure is to extend relief to the end borrowers from the financial stress due to this on-going pandemic. The relief is not being granted in light of any credit weakness in the accounts. In a securitisation or a direct assignment, the transaction mirrors the quality of the underlying pool. If the credit quality of the loans remain intact, then there is no question of the securitisation or the direct assignment transaction going bad. Similarly, we do not see any reason for rating downgrade as well.

The next question that arises here is: what about the loss of interest due to the deferment of cash flows? The RBI’s notification states that the financial institutions may provide a moratorium of 3 months, which basically means a payment holiday. This, however, does not mean that the interest accrual will also be suspended during this period. As per our understanding, despite the payment suspension, the lenders will still be accruing the interest on the loans during these 3 months – which will be either collected from the borrower towards the end of the transaction or by re-computing the EMIs. If the lenders adopt such practices, then it should also pass on the benefits to the investors, and the expected cash flows of the PTCs or under the direct assignment transactions should also be recomputed and rescheduled so as to compensate the investors for the losses due to deferment of cash flows.

Another question that arises is – can the investors or the trustee in a securitisation transaction, instead of agreeing to a rescheduling of cash flows, use the credit enhancement to recover the dues during this period? Here it is important to note that credit enhancements are utilised usually when there is a shortfall due to credit weakness of the underlying borrower(s). Using credit enhancements in this case, will reduce the extent of support, weaken the structure of the transaction and may lead to rating downgrade. Therefore, this is not advisable.

We were to imagine an extreme situation – can the investors force the originators to buy back the PTCs or the pool from the assignee, in case of a direct assignment transaction? In case of securitisation transactions, there are special guidelines for exercise of clean up calls on PTCs by the originators, therefore, such a situation will have to be examined in light of the applicable provisions of Securitisation Guidelines. For any other cases, including direct assignment transactions, such a situation could lead up to a larger question on whether the original transaction was itself a true sale or not, because, a buy-back of the pool, defies the basic principles of true sale. Hence, this is not advisable.

[1]https://rbidocs.rbi.org.in/rdocs/Content/PDFs/GOVERNORSTATEMENT5DDD70F6A35D4D70B49174897BE39D9F.PDF

[2] https://www.rbi.org.in/Scripts/NotificationUser.aspx?Id=11835&Mode=0

[3] http://vinodkothari.com/2020/03/moratorium-on-loans-due-to-covid-19-disruption/

Moving to contactless lending, in a contact-less world

-Kanakprabha Jethani (kanak@vinodkothari.com)

Background

With the COVID-19 disruption taking a toll on the world, almost two billion people – close to a third of the world’s population being  restricted to their homes, businesses being locked-down and work-from home becoming a need of the hour; “contactless” business is what the world is looking forward to. The new business jargon “contactless” means that the entire transaction is being done digitally, without requiring any of the parties to the transaction interact physically. While it is not possible to completely digitise all business sectors, however, complete digitisation of certain financial services is well achievable.

With continuous innovations being brought up, financial market has already witnessed a shift from transactions involving huge amount of paper-work to paperless transactions. The next steps are headed towards contactless transactions.

The following write-up intends to provide an introduction to how financial market got digitised, what were the by-products of digitisation, impact of digitisation on financial markets, specifically FinTech lending segment and the way forward.

Journey of digitisation

Digitisation is preparing financial market for the future, where every transaction will be contactless. Financial entities and service providers have already taken steps to facilitate the entire transaction without any physical intervention. Needless to say, the benefits of digitisation to the financial market are evident in the form of cost-efficiency, time-saving, expanded outreach and innovation to name a few.

Before delving into how financial entities are turning contactless, let us understand the past and present of the financial entities. The process of digitisation leads to conversion of anything and everything into information i.e. digital signals. The entire process has been a long journey, having its roots way back in 1995, when the Internet was first operated in India followed by the first use of the mobile phones in 2002 and then in 2009 the first smartphones came into being used. It is each of these stages that has evolved into this all-pervasive concept called digitisation.

Milestones in process of digitisation

The process of digitization has seen various phases. The financial market, specifically, the NBFCs have gone through various phases before completely guzzling down digitization. The journey of NBFCs from over the table executions to providing completely contactless services has been shown in the figure below:

From physical to paperless to contactless: the basic difference

Before analysing the impact of digitisation on the financial market, it is important to understand the concept of ‘paperless’ and ‘contactless’ transactions. In layman terms, paperless transactions are those which do not involve execution of any physical documents but physical interaction of the parties for purposes such as identity verification is required. The documents are executed online via electronic or digital signature or through by way of click wrap agreements.

In case of contactless transactions, the documents are executed online and identity verification is also carried out through processes such as video based identification and verification. There is no physical interaction between parties involved in the transaction.

The following table analyses the impact of digitisation on financial transactions by demarcating the steps in a lending process through physical, paperless and contactless modes:

 

Stages Physical process Paperless process Contactless process
Sourcing the customer The officer of NBFC interacts with prospective applicants The website, app or platform (‘Platform’) reaches out to the public to attract customers or the AI based system may target just the prospective customers Same as paperless process
Understanding needs of the customer The authorised representative speaks to the prospects to understand their financial needs The Platform provides the prospects with information relating to various products or the AI system may track and identify the needs Same as paperless process
Suggesting a financial product Based on the needs the officer suggests a suitable product Based on the analysis of customer data, the system suggests suitable product Same as paperless process
Customer on-boarding Customer on-boarding is done upon issue of sanction letter The basic details of customer are obtained for on-boarding on the Platform Same as paperless process
Customer identification The customer details and documents are identified by the officer during initial meetings Customer Identification is done by matching the details provided by customer with the physical copy of documents Digital processes such as Video KYC are used carry out customer identification
Customer due-diligence Background check of customer is done based on the available information and that obtained from the customer and credit information bureaus Information from Credit Information Agencies, social profiles of customer, tracking of communications and other AI methods etc. are used to carry out due diligence Same as paperless process
Customer acceptance On signing of formal agreement By clicking acceptance buttons such as ‘I agree’ on the Platform or execution through digital/electronic signature Same as paperless process
Extending the loan The loan amount is deposited in the customer’s bank account The loan amount is credited to the wallet, bank account or prepaid cards etc., as the case may be Same as paperless process
Servicing the loan The authorised representatives ensures that the loan is serviced Recovery efforts are made through nudges on Platform. Physical interaction is the last resort Same as paperless process. However, physical interaction for recovery may not be desirable.
Customer data maintenance After the relationship is ended, physical files are maintained Cloud-based information systems are the common practice Same as paperless process

The manifold repercussions

The outcome of digitisation of the financial markets in India, was a land of opportunities for those operating in financial market, it has also wiped off those who couldn’t keep pace with technological growth. Survival, in financial market, is driven by the ability to cope with rapid technological advancements. The impact of digitisation on financial market, specifically lending related services, can be analysed in the following phases:

Payments coming to online platforms

With mobile density in India reaching to 88.90% in 2019[1], the adoption of digital payments have accelerated in India, showing a rapid growth at a CAGR of 42% in value of digital payments. The value of digital payments to GDP rose to 862% in the FY 2018-19.

Simultaneously, of the total payments made up to Nov 2018, in India, the value of cash payments stood at a mere 19%. The shift from cash payments to digital payments has opened new avenues for financial service providers.

Need for service providers

With everything coming online, and the demand for digital money rising, the need for service providers has also taken birth. Services for transitioning to digital business models and then for operating them are a basic need for FinTech entities and thus, there is a need for various kinds of service providers at different stages.

Deliberate and automatic generation of demand

When payments system came online, financial service providers looked for newer ways of expanding their business. But the market was already operating in its own comfortable state. To disrupt this market and bring in something new, the FinTech service providers introduced the idea of easy credit to the market. When the market got attracted to this idea, digital lending products were introduced. With time, add-ons such as backing by guarantee, indemnity, FLDG etc. were also introduced to these products.

Consequent to digital commercialization, the need for payment service providers also generated automatically and thus, leading to the demand for digital payment products.

Opportunities for service providers

With digitization of non-banking financial activities, many players have found a place for themselves in financial markets and around. While the NBFCs went digital, the advent of digitization also became the entry gate to other service providers such as:

Platform service providers:

In order to enable NBFCs to provide financial services digitally, platform service providers floated digital platforms wherein all the functions relating to a financial transaction, ranging from sourcing of the customer, obtaining KYC information, collating credit information to servicing of the customer etc.

Software as a Service (SaaS) providers:

Such service providers operate on a business model that offers software solutions over the internet, charging their customers based on the usage of the software. Many of the FinTech based NBFCs have turned to such software providers for operating their business on digital platforms. Such service providers also provide specific software for credit score analysis, loan process automation and fraud detection etc.

Payment service providers:

For facilitating transactions in digital mode, it is important that the flow of money is also digitized. Due to this, the demand for payment services such as payments through cards, UPI, e-cash, wallets, digital cash etc. has risen. This demand has created a new segment of service providers in the financial sector.

NBFCs usually enter into partnerships with platform service providers or purchase software from SaaS providers to digitize their business.

Heads-up from the regulator

The recent years have witnessed unimaginable developments in the FinTech sector. Innovations introduced in the recent times have given birth to newer models of business in India. The ability to undertake paperless and contactless transactions has urged NBFCs to achieve Pan India presence. The government has been keen in bringing about a digital revolution in the country and has been coming up with incentives in forms of various schemes for those who shift their business to digital platforms. Regulators have constantly been involved in recognising digital terminology and concepts legally.

In Indian context, innovation has moved forward hand-in-hand with regulation[2]. The Reserve Bank of India, being the regulator of financial market, has been a key enabler of the digital revolution. The RBI, in its endeavor to support digital transactions has introduced many reforms, the key pillars amongst which are – e-KYC (Know Your Customer), e-Signature, Unified Payment Interface (UPI), Electronic NACH facility and Central KYC Registry.

The regulators have also introduced the concept of Regulatory Sandbox[3] to provide innovative business models an opportunity to operate in real market situations without complying with the regulatory norms in order to establish viability of their innovation.

While these initiatives and providing legal recognition to electronic documents did bring in an era of paperless[4] financial transactions, the banking and non-banking segment of the market still involved physical interaction of the parties to a transaction for the purpose of identity verification. Even the digital KYC process specified by the regulator was also a physical process in disguise[5].

In January 2020, the RBI gave recognition to video KYC, transforming the paperless transactions to complete contactless space[6].

Further, the RBI is also considering a separate regime for regulation of FinTech entities, which would be based on risk-based regulation, ranging from “Disclosure” to “Light-Touch Regulation & Supervision” to a “Tight Regulation and Full-Fledged Supervision”.[7]

Way forward

2019 has seen major revolutions in the FinTech space. Automation of lending process, Video KYC, voice based verification for payments, identity verification using biometrics, social profiling (as a factor of credit check) etc. have been innovations that has entirely transformed the way NBFCs work.

With technological developments becoming a regular thing, the FinTech space is yet to see the best of its innovations. A few innovations that may bring a roundabout change in the FinTech space are in-line and will soon be operable. Some of these are:

  • AI-Driven Predictive Financing, which has the ability to find target customers, keep track on their activities and identify the accurate time for offering the product to the customer.
  • Enabling recognition of Indian languages in the voice recognition feature of verification.
  • Introduction of blockchain based KYC, making KYC data available on a permission based-decentralised platform. This would be a more secure version of data repository with end-to-end encryption of KYC information.
  • Introduction of Chatbots and Robo-advisors for interacting with customers, advising suitable financial products, on-boarding, servicing etc. Robots with vernacular capabilities to deal with rural and semi-urban India would also be a reality soon.

Conclusion

Digital business models have received whole-hearted acceptance from the financial market. Digitisation has also opened gates for different service providers to aid the financial market entities. Technology companies are engaged in constantly developing better tools to support such businesses and at the same time the regulators are providing legal recognition to technology and making contactless transactions an all-round success. This is just the foundation and the financial market is yet to see oodles of innovation.

 

 

[1] https://www.rbi.org.in/Scripts/PublicationsView.aspx?id=19417

[2] https://www.bis.org/publ/bppdf/bispap106.htm

[3] Our write on Regulatory Sandboxes can be referred here- http://vinodkothari.com/2019/04/safe-in-sandbox-india-provides-cocoon-to-fintech-start-ups/

[4] Paperless here means paperless digital financial transactions

[5] Our write-up on digital KYC process may be read here- http://vinodkothari.com/2019/08/introduction-of-digital-kyc/

[6]Our write-up on amendments to KYC Directions may be read here: http://vinodkothari.com/2020/01/kyc-goes-live-rbi-promotes-seamless-real-time-secured-audiovisual-interaction-with-customers/

[7] https://rbidocs.rbi.org.in/rdocs/PublicationReport/Pdfs/WGFR68AA1890D7334D8F8F72CC2399A27F4A.PDF

 

Bridging the gap between Ind AS 109 and the regulatory framework for NBFCs

-Abhirup Ghosh

(abhirup@vinodkothari.com)

The Reserve Bank of India, on 13th March, 2020, issued a notification[1] providing guidance on implementation of Indian Accounting Standards by non-banking financial companies. This guidance comes after almost 2 years from the date of commencement of first phase of implementation of Ind AS for NBFCs.

The intention behind this Notification is to ensure consistency in certain areas like – asset classification, provisioning, regulatory capital treatment etc. The idea of the Notification is not to provide detailed guidelines on Ind AS implementation. For areas which the Notification has not dealt with, notified accounting standards, application guidance, educational material and other clarifications issued by the ICAI should be referred to.

The Notification is addressed to all non-banking financial companies and asset reconstruction companies. Since, housing finance companies are now governed by RBI and primarily a class of NBFCs, this Notification should also apply to them. But for the purpose of this write-up we wish to restrict our scope to NBFCs, which includes HFCs, only.

The Notification becomes applicable for preparation of financial statements from the financial year 2019-20 onwards, therefore, it seems the actions to be taken under the Notification will have to be undertaken before 31st March, 2020, so far as possible.

In this article we wish to discuss the outcome the Notification along with our comments on each issue. This article consists of the following segments:

  1. Things to be done by the Board of Directors (BOD)
  2. Expected Credit Losses (ECL) and prudential norms
  3. Dealing with defaults and significant increase in credit risk
  4. Things to be done by the Audit Committee of the Board (ACB)
  5. Computation of regulatory capital
  6. Securitisation accounting and prudential norms
  7. Matters which skipped attention

1.   Things to be done by the BOD

The Notification starts with a sweeping statement that the responsibility of preparing and ensuring fair presentation of the financial statements lies with the BOD of the company. In addition to this sweeping statement, the Notification also demands the BOD to lay down some crucial policies which will be essential for the implementation of Ind AS among NBFCs and they are: a) Policy for determining business model of the company; and b) Policy on Expected Credit Losses.

(A) Board approved policy on business models: The Company should have a Board approved policy, which should articulate and document the business models and portfolios of the Company. This is an extremely policy as the entire classification of financial assets, depends on the business model of the NBFC. Some key areas which, we think, the Policy should entail are:

There are primarily three business models that Ind AS recognises for subsequent measurement of financial assets:

(a) hold financial assets in order to collect contractual cash flows;

(b) hold financial assets in order to collect contractual cash flows and also to sell financial assets; and

(c) hold financial assets for the purpose of selling them.

The assessment of the business model should not be done at instrument-by-instrument level, but can be done at a higher level of aggregation. But at the same time, the aggregation should be not be done at an entity-level because there could be multiple business models in a company.

Further, with respect the first model, the Ind AS states that the business model of the company can still be to hold the financial assets in order to collect contractual cash flows even if some of the assets are sold are expected to be sold in future. For instance, the business model of the company shall remain unaffected due to the following transactions of sale:

(a) Sale of financial assets due to increase in credit risk, irrespective of the frequency or value of such sale;

(b) Sale of cash flows are made close to the maturity and where the proceeds from the sale approximate the collection of the remaining contractual cash flows; and

(c) Sale of financial assets due to other reasons, namely, to avoid credit concentration, if such sales are insignificant in value (individually or in aggregate) or infrequent.

For the third situation, what constitutes to insignificant or infrequent has not been discussed in the Ind AS. However, reference can be drawn from the Report of the Working Group of RBI on implementation of Ind AS by banks[2], which proposes that there could be a rebuttable presumption that where there are more than 5% of sale, by value, within a specified time period, of the total amortised cost of financial assets held in a particular business model, such a business model may be considered inconsistent with the objective to hold financial assets in order to collect contractual cash flow.

However, we are not inclined to take the same as prescriptive. Business model of an entity is still a question hinging on several relevant factors, primarily the profit recognition, internal reporting of profits, pursuit of securitization/direct assignment strategy, etc. Of course, the volume may be a persuasive factor.

The Notification also requires that the companies should also have a policy on sale of assets held under amortised cost method, and such policy should be disclosed in the financial statements.

(B) Board approved policy on ECL methodology: the Notification requires the companies to lay down Board approved sound methodologies for computation of Expected Credit Losses. For this purpose, the RBI has advised the companies to use the Guidance on Credit Risk and Accounting for Expected Credit Losses issued by Basel Committee on Banking Supervision (BCBS)[3] for reference.

The methodologies laid down should commensurate with the size, complexity and risks specific to the NBFC. The parameters and assumptions for risk assessment should be well documented along with sensitivity of various parameters and assumptions on the ECL output.

Therefore, as per our understanding, the policy on ECL should contain the following –

(a) The assumptions and parameters for risk assessment – which should basically talk about the probabilities of defaults in different situations. Here it is important to note that the assumptions could vary for the different products that the reporting entity offers to its customers. For instance, if a company offers LAP and auto loans at the same time, it cannot apply same set of assumptions for both these products.

Further, the policy should also lay down indicators of significant increase in credit risk, impairment etc. This would allow the reporting entity in determining classifying its assets into Stage 1, Stage 2 and Stage 3.

(b) Backtesting of assumptions – the second aspect of this policy should deal with backtesting of the assumptions. The policy should provide for mechanism of backtesting of assumption on historical data so as to examine the accuracy of the assumptions.

(c) Sensitivity analysis – Another important aspect of this policy is sensitivity analysis. The policy should provide for mechanism of sensitivity analysis, which would predict the outcome based on variations in the assumptions. This will help in identifying how dependant the output is on a particular input.

Further, the Notification states that any change in the ECL model must be well documented along with justifications, and should be approved by the Board. Here it is important to note that there could two types of variations – first, variation in inputs, and second, variation in the model. As per our understanding, only the latter should be placed before the BOD for its approval.

Further, any change in the assumptions or parameters or the ECL model for the purpose of profit smothering shall seriously be frowned upon by the RBI, as it has clearly expressed its opinion against such practices.

2.   Expected Credit Losses (ECL) and prudential norms

The RBI has clarified that whatever be the ECL output, the same should be subject to a regulatory floor which in this case would be the provisions required to be created as the IRAC norms. Let us understand the situation better:

The companies will have to compute two types of provisions or loss estimations going forward – first, the ECL as per Ind AS 109 and its internal ECL model and second, provisions as per the RBI regulations, which has to be computed in parallel, and at asset level.

The difference between the two will have to be dealt with in the following manner:

(A) Impairment Reserve: Where the ECL computed as per the ECL methodology is lower than the provisions computed as per the IRAC norms, then the difference between the two should be transferred to a separate “Impairment Reserve”. This transfer will not be a charge against profit, instead, the Notification states that the difference should be appropriated against the profit or loss after taxes.

Interestingly, no withdrawals against this Impairment Reserve is allowed without RBI’s approval. Ideally, any loss on a financial asset should be first adjusted from the provision created for that particular account.

Further, the continuity of this Impairment Reserve shall be reviewed by the RBI going forward.

A large number of NBFCs have already presented their first financial statements as per Ind AS for the year ended 31st March, 2019. There were two types of practices which were followed with respect to provisioning and loss estimations. First, where the NBFCs charged only the ECL output against its profits and disregarded the regulatory provisioning requirements. Second, where the NBFCs computed provisions as per regulatory requirements as well as ECL and charged the higher amount between the two against the profits.

The questions that arise here are:

(a) For the first situation, should the NBFCs appropriate a higher amount in the current year, so as to compensate for the amount not transferred in the previous year?

(b) For the second situation, should the NBFCs reverse the difference amount, if any, already charged against profit during the current year and appropriate the same against profit or loss?

The answer for both the questions is negative. The provisions of the Notification shall have to be implemented for the preparation of financial statements from the financial year 2019-20 onwards, hence, we don’t see the need for adjustments for what has already been done in the previous year’s financial statements.

(B) Disclosure: The difference between the two will have to be disclosed in the annual financial statements of the company, format of which has been provided in the Notification[4]. Going by the format, the loss allowances created on Stage 1, Stage 2 and Stage 3 cases will have to be shown separately, similarly, the provisions computed on those shall also have to be shown separately.

While Stage 1 and Stage 2 cases have been classified as standard assets in the format, Stage 3 cases cover sub-standard, doubtful and loss assets.

Loss estimations on loan commitments, guarantees etc. which are covered under Ind AS but does not require provisioning under the RBI Directions should also be presented.

3.     Dealing with defaults and significant increase in credit risk

Estimation of expected losses in financial assets as per Ind AS depends primarily on credit risk assessment and identifying situations for impairment. Considering the importance of issue, the RBI has voiced its opinion on identification of “defaults” and “significant increase in credit risk”.

(A)Defaults: The next issue which has been dealt with in the Notification is the meaning of defaults. Currently, there seems to be a departure between the Ind AS and the regulatory definition of “defaults”. While the former allows the company to declare an account as default based on its internal credit risk assessments, the latter requires that all cases with delay of more than 90 days should be treated as default. The RBI expects the accounting classification to be guided by the regulatory definition of “defaults”.

 If a company decides not to impair an account even after a 90 days delay, then the same should be approved by the Audit Committee.

This view is also in line with the definition of “default” proposed by the BASEL framework for IRB framework, which is:

“A default is considered to have occurred with regard to a particular obligor when one or more of the following events has taken place.

 (a) It is determined that the obligor is unlikely to pay its debt obligations (principal, interest, or fees) in full;

 (b) A credit loss event associated with any obligation of the obligor, such as a charge-off, specific provision, or distressed restructuring involving the forgiveness or postponement of principal, interest, or fees;

 (c) The obligor is past due more than 90 days on any credit obligation; or

 (d) The obligor has filed for bankruptcy or similar protection from creditors.”

Further, the number of cases of defaults and the total amount outstanding and overdue should be disclosed in the notes to the financial statements. As per the current regulatory framework, NBFCs have to present the details of sub-standard, doubtful and loss assets in its financial statements. Hence, this disclosure requirement is not new, only the sub-classification of NPAs have now been taken off.

(B) Dealing with significant increase in credit risk: Assessment of credit risk plays an important role in ECL computation under Ind AS 109. Just to recapitulate, credit risk assessments can be lead to three possible situations – first, where there is no significant increase in credit risk, second, where there is significant increase in credit risk, but no default, and third, where there is a default. These three outcomes are known as Stage 1, Stage 2 and Stage 3 cases respectively.

 In case an account is under Stage 1, the loss estimation has to be done based on probabilities of default during next 12 months after the reporting date. However, if an account is under Stage 2 or Stage 3, the loss estimation has to be done based on lifetime probabilities of default.

Technically, both Stage 1 and Stage 2 cases would fall under the definition of standard assets for the purpose of RBI Directions, however, from accounting purposes, these two stages would attract different loss estimation techniques. Hence, the RBI has also voiced its opinion on the methodology of credit risk assessment for Stage 2 cases.

The Notification acknowledges the presence of a rebuttable presumption of significant increase in credit risk of an account, should there be a delay of 30 days or more. However, this presumption is rebuttable if the reporting entity has reasonable and supportable information that demonstrates that the credit risk has not increased significantly since initial recognition, despite a delay of more than 30 days. In a reporting entity opts to rebut the presumption and assume there is no increase in credit risk, then the reasons for such should be properly documented and the same should be placed before the Audit Committee.

However, the Notification also states that under no circumstances the Stage 2 classification be deferred beyond 60 days overdue.

4.   Things to be done by the ACB

The Notification lays down responsibilities for the ACB and they are:

(A) Approval of any subsequent modification in the ECL model: In order to be doubly sure about that any subsequent change made to the ECL model is not frivolous, the same has to be placed before the Audit Committee for their approval. If approved, the rationale and basis of such approval should be properly documented by the company.

(B) Reviewing cases of delays and defaults: As may have been noted above, the following matters will have to be routed through the ACB:

(a) Where the reporting entity decides not to impair an account, even if there is delay in payment of more than 90 days.

(b) Where as per the risk assessment of the reporting entity, with respect to an account involving a delay of more than 30 days, it rebuts that there is no significant increase in credit risk.

In both the cases, if the ACB approves the assumptions made by the management, the approval along with the rationale and justification should be properly documented.

5.   Computation of Regulatory Capital

The Notification provides a bunch of clarifications with respect to calculation of “owned funds”, “net owned funds”, and “regulatory capital”, each of which has been discussed here onwards:

(A) Impact of unrealised gains or losses arising on fair valuation of financial instruments: The concept of fair valuation of financial instruments is one of the highlights of IFRS or Ind AS. Ind AS 109 requires fair valuation of all financial instruments. The obvious question that arises is how these gains or losses on fair valuation will be treated for the purpose of capital computation. RBI’s answer to this question is pretty straight and simple – none of these of gains will be considered for the purpose of regulatory capital computation, however, the losses, if any, should be considered. This view seems to be inspired from the principle of conservatism.

 Here it is important to note that the Notification talks about all unrealised gains arising out of fair valuation of financial assets. Unrealised gain could arise in two situations – first, when the assets are measured on fair value through other comprehensive income (FVOCI), and second, when the assets are measured on fair value through profit or loss (FVTPL).

In case of assets which are fair valued through profit or loss, the gains or losses once booked are taken to the statement of profit or loss. Once taken to the statement of profit or loss, these gains or losses lose their individuality. Further, these gains or losses are not shown separately in the Balance Sheet and are blended with accumulated profits or losses of the company. Monitoring the unrealised gains from individual assets would mean maintenance of parallel accounts, which could have several administrative implications.

Further, when these assets are finally sold and gain is realised, only the difference between the fair value and value of disposal is booked in the profit and loss account. It is to be noted here that the gain on sale of assets shown in the profit and loss account in the year of sale is not exactly the actual gain realised from the financial asset because a part of it has been already booked during previous financial years as unrealised gains. If we were to interpret that by “unrealised gains” RBI meant unrealised gains arising due to FVTPL as well, the apparent question that would arise here is – whether the part which was earlier disregarded for the purpose of regulatory capital will now be treated as a part of capital?

Needless to say, extending the scope of “unrealised gains” to mean unrealised gains from FVTPL can create several ambiguities. However, the Notification, as it stands, does not contain answers for these.

In addition to the above, the Notification states the following in this regard:

  • Even unrealised gains arising on transition to Ind AS will have to be disregarded.
  • For the purpose of computation of Tier I capital, for investments in NBFCs and group companies, the entities must reduce the lower of cost of acquisition or their fair value, since, unrealised gains are anyway deducted from owned funds.
  • For any other category of investments, unrealised gains may be reduced from the value of asset for the purpose of risk-weighting.
  • Netting off of gains and losses from one category of assets is allowed, however, netting off is not allowed among different classes of assets.
  • Fair value gains on revaluation of property, plant and equipment arising from fair valuation on the date of transition, shall be treated as a part of Tier II capital, subject to a discount of 55%.
  • Any unrealised gains or losses recognised in equity due to (a) own credit risk and (b) cash flow hedge reserve shall be derecognised while determining owned funds.

(B) Treatment of ECL: The Notification allows only Stage 1 ECL, that is, 12 months ECL, to be included as a part of Tier II capital as general provisions and loss reserves. Lifetime ECL shall not be reckoned as a part of Tier II capital.

6.   Securitisation accounting and prudential norms

All securitisation transactions undergo a strict test of de-recognition under Ind AS 109. The conditions for de-recognition are such that most of the structures, prevalent in India, fail to qualify for de-recognition due to credit enhancements. Consequently, the transaction does not go off the books.

The RBI has clarified that the cases of securitisation that does not go off the books, will be allowed capital relief from regulatory point of view. That is, the assets will be assigned 0% risk weight, provided the credit enhancement provided for the transaction is knocked off the Tier I (50%) and Tier II (remaining 50%).

There are structures where the level of credit enhancement required is as high as 20-25%, the question here is – should the entire credit support be knocked off from the capital? The answer to this lies in the RBI’s Securitisation Guidelines from 2006[5], which states that the knocking off of credit support should be capped at the amount of capital that the bank would have been required to hold for the full value of the assets, had they not been securitised, that is 15%.

For securitisation transactions which qualify for complete de-recognition, we are assuming the existing practice shall be followed.

But apart from the above two, there can also be cases, where partial de-recognition can be achieved – fate of such transactions is unclear. However, as per our understanding, to the extent of retained risk, by way of credit enhancement, there should be a knock off from the capital. For anything retained by the originator, risk weighting should be done.

Matters which skipped attention

There are however, certain areas, which we think RBI has missed considering and they are:

  1. Booking of gain in case of de-recognition of assets: As per the RBI Directions on Securitisation, any gain on sale of assets should be spread over a period of time, on the other hand, the Ind AS requires upfront recognition of gain on sale of assets. The gap between the two should been bridged through this Notification.
  2. Consideration of OCI as a part of Regulatory Capital: As per Basel III framework, other comprehensive income forms part of Common Equity Tier I [read our article here], however, this Notification states all unrealised gains should be disregarded. This, therefore, is an area of conflict between the Basel framework and the RBI’s stand on this issue.

 

Read our articles on the topic:

  1. NBFC classification under IFRS financial statements: http://vinodkothari.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/Article-template-VKCPL-3.pdf
  2. Ind AS vs Qualifying Criteria for NBFCs-Accounting requirements resulting in regulatory mismatch?: http://vinodkothari.com/2019/07/ind-as-vs-qualifying-criteria-for-nbfcs/
  3. Should OCI be included as a part of Tier I capital for financial institutions?: http://vinodkothari.com/2019/03/should-oci-be-included-as-a-part-of-tier-i-capital-for-financial-institutions/
  4. Servicing Asset and Servicing Liability: A new by-product of securitization under Ind AS 109: http://vinodkothari.com/2019/01/servicing-asset-and-servicing-liability/
  5. Classification and reclassification of financial instruments under Ind AS: http://vinodkothari.com/2019/01/classification-of-financial-asset-liabilities-under-ind-as/

 

[1] https://www.rbi.org.in/Scripts/NotificationUser.aspx?Id=11818&Mode=0#F2

[2] https://rbidocs.rbi.org.in/rdocs/Content/PDFs/FAS93F78EF58DB84295B9E11E21A91500B8.PDF

[3] https://www.bis.org/bcbs/publ/d350.pdf

[4] https://rbidocs.rbi.org.in/rdocs/content/pdfs/NOTI170APP130320.pdf

[5] https://www.rbi.org.in/scripts/NotificationUser.aspx?Id=2723

Cryptotrading’s tryst with destiny- Supreme Court revives cryptotrading, RBI’s circular struck down

-Megha Mittal

(mittal@vinodkothari.com

April 2018, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) issued a “Statement on Developmental and Regulatory Policies” (‘Circular’) dated 06.04.2018, thereby prohibiting RBI regulated entities from dealing in/ providing any services w.r.t. virtual currencies, with a 3-month ultimatum to those already engaged in such services. Cut to 4th March, 2020- The Supreme Court of India strikes down RBI’s circular and upheld crypto-trading as valid under the Constitution of India.

Amidst apprehensions of crypto-trading being a highly-volatile and risk-concentric venture, the Apex Court, in its order dated 04.03.2020 observed that RBI, an otherwise staunch critic of cryptocurrencies, failed to present any empirical evidence substantiating cryptocurrency’s negative impact on the banking and credit sector in India; and on the basis of this singular fact, the Hon’ble SC stated RBI’s circular to have failed the test of proportionality.

In this article, the author has made a humble attempt to discuss this landmark judgment and its (dis)advantages to the Indian economy.

Read more

The cult of easy borrowing: New age NBFCs ride high on tempting loan offers

-Rahul Maharshi and Kanakprabha Jethani

(finserv@vinodkothari.com)

 

“यावज्जीवेत्सुखं जीवेत् ऋणं कृत्वा घृतं पिबेत् |

भस्मीभूतस्य देहस्य पुनरागमनं कुतः ||”

The ancient couplet from the Charvak Darshan, in Indian mythology is popularly known as the philosophy of life. There are various interpretations of the above, in general, the meaning of the above couplet gives us a saying that “One should live luxuriously, as long as he is alive, and to attain the same, one may even live on credit and in debt. Because once you are dead and cremated, it is foolish to think about afterlife and rebirth.”

It is seen today that the financial services industry is taking the above couplet too seriously and making the borrowers flooded with opportunities and facilities to burden them with debt in one click. Even the person who is unwilling to enter into a debt trap is somewhat lured by the “instant loan” facilities given by numerous NBFCs these days.

Whilst the Indian economy facing a slowdown and banks in India showing significant falls in their lending volumes, the NBFCs engaged in e-lending are displaying an inverse relation to the trend. The NBFCs have been showing extravagant growth in their lending volumes. On one hand banks are tightening the lending norms considering the current state of the economy, NBFCs seem to be doing reckless lending and reporting exceptionally high lending volumes. The financial market seems to be showing a transition from secured lending to unsecured lending, from corporate finance to personal finance, from paperwork to digitisation. This transition is the reason behind such a drastic shift of lending volumes.

CURRENT STATE OF LENDING TRANSACTIONS

NBFCs are crossing milestones, making new records everyday. A leading NBFC reported disbursal of Rs. 550 crores in 3,50,000 loan transactions and has been consistently disbursing loans over Rs. 80 crores every month[1]. Another NBFC reported an existing customer base of 1.1 million. An app-based lender NBFC has 100 million downloads of its app and has disbursed around Rs. 700 crores in FY 19 with an expectation of increasing the amount of disbursals to Rs. 2,000 crores in FY 20[2].

On the contrary, banks are showing a completely opposite picture. Under the 59-minute loan scheme introduced by the Prime Minister for small entities (having turnover upto Rs. 25 crores) to avail loans of amount upto Rs. 5 crores from banks within an hour, only 50,706 loans were given approval in the FY 19. The growth rates in the banking sector are lowering. The growth in retail loans fell down to 15.7% in April 2019 as compared to 19.1% in April 2018. The growth rate in credit card loans has also shown a decline of 8.8%[3].

UNDERSTANDING THEIR BUSINESS MODEL

NBFCs do unsecured lending of small-ticket size loans, usually personal in nature. The market tends to be more inclined towards obtaining finance from such NBFCs. The basic features of loans provided by NBFCs can be understood through following points:

  • Unsecured: The loans provided by NBFCs doing e-lending are generally unsecure loans. The borrower or the customer is not required to provide any security for obtaining such loans. Thus, even if borrowers have no assets at all, they can still obtain loans.
  • Instant: These NBFCs process the loans within a very short period (‘superfast processing’ as they call it) and the disbursement is made within a period ranging from 5 minutes to 3 days depending on the size of the loan. There is no requirement of long procedures as required to be followed in case of bank loans.
  • Digital: Usually, these NBFCs have an app-based or website based platform through which they provide such loans. The KYC process is also carried out through the app or website itself.
  • High-interest rates: The interest rates on such loans are very high as compared to the interest rates on loans provided by banks. The rates usually range from 15% p.a. to 130% p.a.
  • Small-ticket size: The loan size is generally small ranging from Rs. 500 to Rs, 50,000
  • Short-term loans: The term of loan is also short. Repayment is required on weekly, fortnightly or monthly basis.
  • Credit Score based decisions: The lending decisions made by NBFCS are largely dependent on the credit score of the borrower. A strong network of Credit Information Companies (CICs) stores the credit information of the borrowers and the borrower making default of even a single day would be barred from accessing any other e-lending platform as well. However, for first time borrowers, the only way to check credit standing is their bank statement.
  • Source of funds: NBFCs get their funds from banks as well as bigger size NFCs and Private Equity investors.
  • Purpose: These loans are provided mostly for personal purposes like marriage ceremonies, buying a car, medical issues, travel etc.
  • Innovation: Each of the e-lending platform has a different model. While some involve students in their marketing activities, some have tied-up with sellers and buyers to finance transactions between them and some tying up with different brands to finance their operations.

NBFCs BRUSHING OFF THE REGULATIONS: THEIR OWN SWEET WAYS

The operational structures of such loans are in defiance of many requirements of the RBI Directions. One can see disparity from the RBI Directions in many ways. Following are the areas where most of the NBFCs take their own sweet ways:

  • KYC process: As per the KYC Master Directions an authorised representative of the lender NBFC to physically visit and originally see and verify the KYC details of the borrower. There are further requirements of maintaining the KYC records and carrying out Customer Due Diligence (CDD) which the NBFCs fail (refuse) to comply with in the hurry of their “superfast processing”.
  • Fair Practice Code (FPC): 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”.
  • Risk Management: The Directions require the NBFCs to assess the risk before granting loans to borrowers, which is overlooked while providing speedy disbursals.
  • Recovery Process: NBFCs do not even have properly defined recovery process. They are just making rapid disbursals ignorant of whether these loans will be repaid.
  • Risk to personal information: Many NBFCs obtain access to the personal information such as text messages and social media profile of the borrower by way of incorporating clauses in this regard in the detailed terms and conditions of the loan agreement.

RISKS TO THE BORROWERS

The borrowers face several risks under such loan transactions, ranging from personal to financial such as:

  • Many borrowers usually don’t read the entire set of terms and conditions and end up granting the NBFCs access to their personal information. Privacy of the borrower is at stake as information trading is yet another business that the NBFCs may secretly engage into posing a threat to borrowers’ personal information.
  • The lucrative advertising strategies of these NBFCs might make a borrower take loans for purposes which otherwise would not have been a necessity or priority for the borrower. Hence, the borrower tends to borrow without any actual requirement because a demand has been created by the lender NBFCs.
  • The interest rates are very high on such loans. In case the amount of loan is high, the borrower is unable to pay the huge amount of interest and thus has to take another loan to repay the first.
  • The credit score of the borrower may get affected at the slightest delay in repayment, even if the amount of loan is as small as Rs. 500. Thus the credibility of borrower is at a risk of degradation.

THE BUBBLE OF ATTRACTION: PLAYING WITH THE PSYCHOLOGY

Even in existence of such high interest rates, why is a borrower more attracted to loans from NBFCs? The only answer one finds to this is the ease and the fact that they are instant. In an era where everyone wants everything in a jiffy, be it food or health solutions, being attracted to instant loans is a very natural thing.

For example you meet an accident and don’t have money for treatment to be done, take a loan. You are shopping and suddenly realise you forgot your purse, take a loan.

The most crucial thing is that these NBFCs do not monitor the end use of the loan amounts disbursed. So a borrower may specify any purpose for the loan, which he might not actually use the loan for. Moreover, the high interest rates are not noticed by the borrowers as most of the NBFCs show monthly interest rates rather than the yearly rates in their communications on the app or the website.

Many borrowers usually don’t read the entire set of terms and conditions and end up granting these NBFCs access to their personal information. Information trading is yet another business that the NBFCs may secretly engage into posing a threat to borrowers’ information.

The NBFCs are rightly playing the psychology game by becoming a friend in need for the borrowers. No matter how high the interest rates maybe or how risky the transaction maybe, it is a handy help whenever needed.

Furthermore, the advertisements made by these NBFCs are so catchy that they may lure a person who might not really be in need of finance. The catchy phrases like “make your dream wedding come true”, “let the wanderlust in you come alive” create a “need” for the customer to become a borrower. Marriage functions, travel and luxuries things are the Indian way of showing richness and the abovementioned philosophy wraps people in a comfortable blanket of justification to remain under debt-burden.

ALL OUR MONEY INTO THE BLACK HOLE

While lending to businesses results in more capital formation and growth of the economy. Personal lending mostly results in wasteful expenditure. Further, the interest rates being so high, many a times the borrowers obtain another loan to pay the previous loan and gets trapped into the vicious circle of obtaining and repaying loans. The increasing lending volumes are not an indication of overall growth of the economy. Most of the purposes for which such loans are availed are consumption-based and have no value-addition. All the money taken on loan is being used in consumption-based expenditure and not in value-addition activities and thus even after such high lending volumes, the growth of the economy is just disappearing into the black hole.

CONCLUSION

While on one hand, such loans are helping us in need, on the other hand they are luring us to take unnecessary debt burden. The lender NBFCs are under the risk of regulatory action by the regulators since many of them are in non-compliance with regulatory requirements. The borrowers are under the risk of pressing themselves under unnecessary debt burden and huge interest costs. The recovery procedures of these NBFCs are very lenient but due to the high interest costs, the cost of funds is readily recovered by the lender NBFC. Even when banks have tried to provide quick loans under 59-minutes loan scheme, they have failed to do away with the procedural requirements such as document submission and are still regarded as “slow-loans” considering the super-fast loans being provided by NBFCs within 5 minutes.

Though immensely helpful, these loans have a potential to impact the economy in such a manner that it seems to be beneficial while it’s actually not. The borrowers are happily floating in the bubble of “instant loans” which is definitely going to burst in no time.

 

[1] Source: Economic Times

[2] Source: CNBC

[3] Source: Business Standard

RBI to strengthen corporate governance for Core Investment Companies.

Vinod Kothari

As a part of the Bi-monthly Monetary Policy on 6th June, 2019, the RBI’s review of Development and Regulatory Policies [https://rbi.org.in/Scripts/BS_PressReleaseDisplay.aspx?prid=47226] proposed to set up a working group to strengthen the regulatory framework for core investment companies (CICs). The RBI states: “Over the years, corporate group structures have become more complex involving multiple layering and leveraging, which has led to greater inter-connectedness to the financial system through their access to public funds. Further, in light of recent developments, there is a need to strengthen the corporate governance framework of CICs. Accordingly, it has been decided to set up a Working Group to review the regulatory guidelines and supervisory framework applicable to CICs.”

Core investment companies are group holding vehicles, which hold equities of operating or financial companies in a business group. These companies also give financial support in form of loans to group companies. However, CICs are barred from dealing with companies outside the group or engaging in any other business operation.

Currently as per the data as on 30th April, 2019, there are only 58 registered CICs in the country. There may be some unregistered CICs as well, since those not having “public funds” do not require registration.

If a CIC is not holding “public funds” (a broad term that includes bank loans, inter-corporate deposits, NCDs, CP, etc.), the CIC is exempt from registration requirement. Presumably such CICs are also excluded from any regulatory sanctions of the RBI as well. However, it is quite common for CICs to access bank loans or have other forms of debt for funding their investments. Such CICs require registration and come under the regulatory framework of the RBI, if their assets are worth Rs 100 crores or more.

Corporate governance norms applicable to systemically important NBFCs are currently not applicable to CICs.

The RBI has observed that CICs are engaged in layering of leverage. This observation is correct, as very often, banks and other lenders might have lent to CICs. The CICs, with borrowed money, use the same for infusing capital at the operating level below, which, once again, becomes the basis for leveraging. Thus, leveraged funds become basis for leverage, thereby creating multiple layers of leverage.

While agreeing with the contention of the RBI, one would like to mention that currently, the regulatory definition of CICs is so stringent that many of the group holding companies qualify as “investment companies” (now, credit and investment companies) and not CICs. There is a need to reduce the qualifying criteria for definition of CICs to 50% of investments in equities of group companies. This would ensure that a large number of “investment companies” will qualify as CICs, based on predominance of their investments, and would be viewed and regulated as such.

Prominent among the registered CICs are entities like Tata Sons, L&T Finance Holdings, JSW Investments, etc. The extension of corporate governance norms to CICs is unlikely to benefit any, but impact all.

The Reserve Bank has accordingly constituted the Working Group to Review Regulatory and Supervisory Framework for Core Investment Companies on 3rd July, 2019 [https://rbidocs.rbi.org.in/rdocs/PressRelease/PDFs/PR43DDEE37027375423E989F2C08B3491F4F.PDF]. The Terms of Reference (ToR) of the Working Group are given below:

  • To examine the current regulatory framework for CICs in terms of adequacy, efficacy and effectiveness of every component thereof and suggest changes therein.
  • To assess the appropriateness of and suggest changes to the current approach of the Reserve Bank of India towards registration of CICs including the practice of multiple CICs being allowed within a group.
  • To suggest measures to strengthen corporate governance and disclosure requirements for CICs
  • To assess the adequacy of supervisory returns submitted by CICs and suggest changes therein
  • To suggest appropriate measures to enhance RBI’s off-sight surveillance and on-site supervision over CICs.
  • Any other matter incidental to the above.

As per the press release, the Working Group shall submit its report by October 31, 2019.

NBFCs get another chance to reinstate NOF

By Falak Dutta, (finserv@vinodkothari.com)

Since the Sarada scam in 2015, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) had been on high alert and had been subsequently tightening regulations for NBFCs, micro-finance firms and such other companies which provide informal banking services. As of December 2015, over 56 NBFC licenses were cancelled[1]. However, recently in light of the uncertain credit environment (recall DHFL and IF&LS) among other reasons, RBI has cancelled around 400 licenses [2]in 2018 primarily due to a shortfall in Net Owned Funds (NOF)[3] among other reasons. The joint entry of the Central Govt. regulators and RBI to calm the volatility in the markets on September 21st, 2018 after an intra-day fall of over 1000 points amid default concerns of DHFL warrants concern. Had it been two isolated incidents the regulators and Union government would have been unlikely to step in. The RBI & SEBI issued a joint statement on September saying they were prepared to step in if market volatility warrants such a situation. This suggests a situation which is more than what meets the eye.

Coming back to NBFCs, over half of the cancelled NBFC licenses in 2018 could be attributed to shortfall in NOFs. NOF is described in Section 45 IA of the RBI Act, 1934. It defines NOF as:

1) “Net owned fund” means–

(a) The aggregate of the paid-up equity capital and free reserves as disclosed in the latest

Balance sheet of the company after deducting therefrom–

(i) Accumulated balance of loss;

(ii) Deferred revenue expenditure; and

(iii) Other intangible assets; and

(b) Further reduced by the amounts representing–

(1) Investments of such company in shares of–

(i) Its subsidiaries;

(ii) Companies in the same group;

(iii) All other non-banking financial companies; and

(2) The book value of debentures, bonds, outstanding loans and advances

(including hire-purchase and lease finance) made to, and deposits with,–

(i) Subsidiaries of such company; and

(ii) Companies in the same group, to the extent such amount exceeds ten per cent of (a) above.

At present, the threshold amount that has to be maintained is stipulated at 2 crore, from the previous minimum of 25 lakhs. Previously, to meet this requirement of Rs. 25 lakh a time period of three years was given. During this tenure, NBFCs were allowed to carry on business irrespective of them not meeting business conditions. Moreover, this period could be extended by a further 3 years, which should not exceed 6 years in aggregate. However, this can only be done after stating the reason in writing and this extension is in complete discretion of the RBI. The failure to maintain this threshold amount within the stipulated time had led to this spurge of license cancellations in 2018.

However, the Madras High Court judgement dated 29-1-2019 came as a big relief to over 2000 NBFCs whose license had been cancelled due a delay in fulfilling the shortfall.

 

THE JUDGEMENT[4]

The regulations

On 27-3-2015 the RBI by notification No. DNBR.007/CGM(CDS)-2015 specified two hundred lakhs rupees as the NOF required for an NBFC to commence or carry on the business. It further stated that an NBFC holding a CoR and having less than two hundred lakh rupees may continue to carry on the business, if such a company achieves the NOF of one hundred lakh rupees before 1-04-2016 and two hundred lakhs of rupees before 1-04-2017.

The Petitioner’s claim

The petition was filed by 4 NBFCs namely Nahar Finance & Leasing Ltd., Lodha Finance India Ltd., Valluvar Development Finance Pvt. Ltd. and Senthil Finance Pvt. Ltd. for the cancellation of CoR[5] against the RBI. The petitioners claim that they had been complying with all the statutory regulations and regularly filing various returns and furnishing the required information to the Registrar of Companies. These petitions were in response to the RBI issued Show Cause Notices to the petitioners proposing to cancel the CoR and initiate penal action. The said SCNs were responded to by the petitioners contending that they had NOF of Rs.104.50 lakhs, Rs.34.19 lakhs, Rs.79.50 lakhs and Rs.135 lakhs respectively, as on 31.03.2017.

Valluvar Development Finance also sent a reply stating that they had achieved the required NOF on 23-10-2017, attaching a certificate from the Statutory Auditor to support its claim. The other petitioners however submitted that due to significant change in the economy including the policies of the Govt. of India during the fiscal years 2016-17 and 2017-18 like de-monetization and implementation of Goods & Services Tax, the entire working of the finance sector was impaired and as such sought extension of time till 31-03-2019 to comply with the requirements.

Now despite seeking extension of time, having given explanations to the SCNs, the CoRs were cancelled without an opportunity for the NBFCs to be heard.

 

The Decision

It was argued that there is a remedy provided against the cancellation of the CoRs, the petitioners had chosen to invoke Article 226 contending violation of the principles of justice. The proviso to Section 45-IA(6) relates to the contentions in regards to cancellation of the CoRs.

“45-IA. Requirement of registration and net owned fund –

(3) Notwithstanding anything contained in sub-section (1), a non-banking financial company in existence on the commencement of the Reserve Bank of India (Amendment) Act, 1997 and having a net owned fund of less than twenty five lakhs rupees may, for the purpose of enabling such company to fulfill the requirement of the net owned fund, continue to carry on the business of a non-banking financial institution–

(i) for a period of three years from such commencement; or

(ii) for such further period as the Bank may, after recording the reasons in writing for so doing, extend,

subject to the condition that such company shall, within three months of fulfilling the requirement of the net owned fund, inform the Bank about such fulfillment:

Provided further that before making any order of cancellation of certificate of registration, such company shall be given a reasonable opportunity of being heard.

(7) A company aggrieved by the order of rejection of application for registration or cancellation of certificate of registration may prefer an appeal, within a period of thirty days from the date on which such order of rejection or cancellation is communicated to it, to the Central Government and the decision of the Central Government where an appeal has been preferred to it, or of the Bank where no appeal has been preferred, shall be final:

Provided that before making any order of rejection of appeal, such company shall be given a reasonable opportunity of being heard.

The decision was taken on two grounds. First, the statute specifically provides for an opportunity of personal hearing besides calling for an explanation. The amended provision is very particular that opportunity of being personally heard is mandatory, as the very amendment relates to finance companies, which are already carrying on business also. Not affording this opportunity would cripple the business of the petitioners.

Second, the amended section provides NBFCs sufficient time to enhance their NOF by carrying on business and comply with the notifications. For the aforesaid reasons, the orders by the RBI requires interference. Resultantly, the respondents (RBI authorities) are directed to restore the CoR of the petitioners and also extend the time given to the petitioners.

 

CONCLUSION

This was a landmark hearing in the case of NBFCs as they had been under increasing pressure as of recent times. Many NBFCs can now apply for restoration of their licenses and might already have. The case doesn’t just stand the case for NOF conflicts but will also ring in the minds of regulators in the future, compelling greater caution and concern. The last statement of the judgement stands apt here. The brief sentence read,” Consequently connected miscellaneous petitions are closed.”

[1] https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/economy/finance/rbi-cancels-license-of-56-nbfcs-bajaj-finserv-gives-away-license/articleshow/50045835.cms?from=mdr

[2] https://www.businessinsider.in/indias-central-bank-has-scrapped-the-licenses-of-nearly-400-nbfcs-so-far-this-year/articleshow/65698193.cms

[3] https://www.firstpost.com/business/ilfs-dhfl-shocks-may-be-temporary-triggers-but-the-bad-news-for-indian-financial-markets-do-not-end-there-5248071.html

[4] https://enterslice.com/learning/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/Madras-high-court-Judgement-on-NBFC-License-Cancellation.pdf

[5] Certificate of Registration