Dealing room networking chats under Sebi scanner

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SummaryDealing room activities of brokers, fund managers and other institutional investors...

Dealing room activities of brokers, fund managers and other institutional investors have come under the regulatory scanner for possible manipulations through use of web-based social networking apps and messaging platforms.

While the use of personal mobile phones is already prohibited inside dealing rooms — where trades are executed on behalf of clients — some brokers and fund managers have been found to be active on social networking and other web-based groups and messaging platforms while placing orders, sources said.

This has brought to the fore significant risks of insider trading, front running and other manipulative activities with regard to key client trade information being shared with outside investors or even among the dealers possibly working as a cartel, they added.

Brokers and fund managers are not allowed to use their personal mobile phones inside dealing rooms to receive orders from clients, while fund houses and brokerage firms are required to store records for all client calls for future inspections by Sebi.

According to sources, Sebi is considering further tightening its norms with regard to dealing room communications, given the fast emergence of social networking and other web-based messaging platforms. Those likely to be affected include entities dealing in stocks, derivatives and currency trading, among others.

In a global probe into suspected rigging of forex rates, including those involving rupee as well, foreign regulators already suspect use of intra-bank and web-based messaging platforms among currency traders.

Subsequently, many large global banks have already started clamping down on use of such platforms inside their dealing rooms and similar action can be expected with regard to Indian markets as well, sources added.

The market watchdog is already mulling over steps it can take to check risks being posed by use of new-age smartphone messaging services like BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) and WhatsApp by manipulators to spread sensitive information about their target stocks.

To strengthen its surveillance on stock market transactions, Sebi has already got software tools in place along with IT experts to analyse discussions on social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook.

However, applications like WhatsApp and BBM have proven more tricky, given the multi-level difficulties faced in tracking the source and

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