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  1. FTIL-NSEL merger: Bad in law and policy?

FTIL-NSEL merger: Bad in law and policy?

Reports are abuzz with the ministry of corporate affairs (MCA) actively considering merger of the National Spot Exchange Ltd (NSEL) with its listed parent Financial Technologies India Ltd (FTIL).

By: | Published: December 15, 2015 12:36 AM

Reports are abuzz with the ministry of corporate affairs (MCA) actively considering merger of the National Spot Exchange Ltd (NSEL) with its listed parent Financial Technologies India Ltd (FTIL).

To look back a little, MCA had issued the draft order of merger on October 21, 2014, based on the recommendations made by the Forward Markets Commission (FMC). The constitutional validity of Section 396 of the Companies Act, 1956, was challenged and, in turn, the legality of the draft order was challenged by FTIL before the Bombay High Court. Status quo was directed to be maintained on November 27, 2014, which was vacated on February 4, 2015, when the Solicitor General of India assured the court that it was merely a “draft” order—that MCA had taken a prima facie view—hence all parties concerned can raise their objections to the draft order before MCA, which will be considered in all fairness. Then, MCA will take the final decision whether to go ahead with the merger or not?

The order of February 4 has given MCA a “golden opportunity” to go back to the drawing board and reconsider a step taken in haste, which may have far-reaching implications for the business and investor sentiment in India. The forced merger will destroy the concept of “limited liability” and may lead to global and local investors losing confidence, given that FTIL has FDI and FII investments. It will set a precedent, opening floodgates of PILs seeking merger of companies facing financial problems with their solvent parent or holding or group companies.

The forced merger will have an adverse impact on FTIL’s market capitalisation. It may even erode its net-worth by fastening unproven and sub judice liabilities of more than R5,000 crore of NSEL onto FTIL, thereby harming not just its thousands of shareholders but hundreds of employees, creditors, vendors and other stakeholders of FTIL too, which is against the spirit and purpose of Section 396. It can hardly be said that Section 396 was meant to fasten third-party unproven liabilities on a healthy company with a view to adversely affect the stakeholders of such healthy company, its creditors and employees. This is clear from Section 396(3), which mandates that if the rights and interests of shareholders of both the companies are adversely affected, then they are to be compensated by the resulting company. Hence, any use of Section 396 which is against the interest of its shareholders, creditors, employees, and which (if proved) not to be in the essential public interest may annihilate the shareholders and creditors of a company, thereby affecting the government’s focus on ease of doing business.

On the merits of the matter, first, MCA’s proposal to merge NSEL with FTIL is based solely on FMC’s recommendation. It is, however, unclear whether FMC’s recommendation is based on its own in-depth independent enquiry and whether—as required under Section 396 (1)—FMC has been able to establish that it is “essential in public interest” to merge NSEL and FTIL or its recommendation is merely based on the (1) financial health of FTIL, (2) FTIL’s shareholding in NSEL, (3) representations made by traders and brokers who may be interested parties, and (4) lack of human and financial resources with NSEL for recovery from defaulters.

Second, the “corporate veil” between NSEL and FTIL cannot be lifted until “parental fraud” by FTIL is proven in a court of law. The issue is currently sub judice before the courts in civil suits filed by trading clients who allegedly lost monies. Relying on the observations of the Bombay High Court in its order dated August 22, 2014, no money trail seems to have been found against NSEL, FTIL or their promoters. In these circumstances, MCA may be clearly prejudging the issue if it goes ahead with the merger while proceedings are pending in the Bombay High Court (of course unless it’s been otherwise directed by courts). The forced merger will make FTIL liable irreversibly even if it is held as innocent by the courts later on.

Third, MCA’s own circular dated April 20, 2011, for compulsory merger of government companies under Section 396 requires that the companies concerned and an overwhelming majority of their shareholders and creditors must be consenting to the merger. In this case, FTIL, NSEL and thousands of shareholders of FTIL (constituting 80% of its capital) have opposed the merger. In view thereof, to go ahead with the merger will clearly be discriminatory vis-a-vis government companies.

Fourth, if the merger is being forced on FTIL to ensure recovery for trading clients, then MCA needs to first consider that R542 crore has already been paid off. Additionally, NSEL has made substantial recovery efforts by filing over 150 cases against defaulters, obtaining R1,233 crore of decrees, and R3,428.86 crore of injunctions. The Economic Offences Wing has attached assets worth R5,000 crore of the defaulters under the Maharashtra Protection of Interest of Depositors Act. The Enforcement Directorate has attached assets worth more than R1,200 crore.

Therefore, the claims of the trading clients are more than adequately secured, thereby obviating the need for merger. The genuineness and entitlement of the alleged 13,000 trading clients is under investigation by the High Court Committee in view of complaints from certain trading clients against their brokers alleging client code modification, forgery and benami transactions. Pending all this, a forced merger is clearly premature.

Fifth, the statutory powers granted to MCA under Section 396 are to be exercised only in “essential public interest”. In the instant case, it is argued that majority of the claims belong to certain HNIs and corporates who traded with eyes open to risks and rewards. Claims of small claimants have been fully or partially redressed. Predominantly what may remain is essentially a “private dispute” involving HNIs and corporates, which our courts are more than capable of adjudicating. Given such circumstances, it may be difficult to see any real “public interest” in forcefully merging NSEL with FTIL. To the contrary, not allowing FTIL to defend itself in the court may be viewed as antithetic to “public interest” in the long run.

All one can hope is that MCA will take an informed and objective view of the matter and will consider all aspects in totality whilst considering the idea of forcefully merging NSEL with FTIL and uphold the “rule of law”.

The author is senior partner, Crawford Bayley & Co, Mumbai. Views are personal

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  1. A
    Amit
    Dec 19, 2015 at 4:14 am
    FTIL-NSEL merger: Bad in law and policy or the view in this article can be seen by rating of this article which is 1 because there is no 0 and 11 down votes with 0 up votes...
    Reply
    1. A
      Ashish
      Dec 15, 2015 at 9:25 am
      SEEMS TO A PAID ARTICLE.
      Reply
      1. V
        vivek
        Dec 15, 2015 at 11:41 am
        Paid article !
        Reply
        1. Chirag Shah
          Dec 15, 2015 at 8:23 pm
          An exchange is not merely a company, it's an insution of public trust. The shareholders of an exchange have to bear the complete liability. Jignesh itna bada chor hai, and such so called solicitors & counsels are nothing but wretched blood sucking creatures who have no morals or ethics left. The scam led to serious infamy for the late Mr. Maniar who was also a senior partner at Crawford Bailey, which eventually took his life. He was stopped at the Mumbai airport from traveling abroad to meet his ailing relative. He was stopped like a common criminal would. And here we have Mr. Asher waxing eloquent. What a bloody shame? What can a man stoop to for a few silvers.
          Reply
          1. M
            mohita
            Dec 16, 2015 at 5:37 am
            i think we have to take support from bjp govt and have to take legal action against this article .because its is clearly against the 13000 nsel families suffering from fraud from last year not a single penny has been given to nsel investors though company promoters have promised to give nsel investors their full dues with interest and promise had been done on tv ,so links and authenticity of this article must b checked so we can get clean media and justice
            Reply
            1. P
              Pranav
              Dec 15, 2015 at 6:21 am
              The authors views gives inspiration to white collar corporate scams hiding under corporate veil. If the Govt. is determinant to curb black money, money laundering, kickbacks and fraudulent practices, they have to merge FTIL with NSEL and set an example to deter further scams. Quite likely the article may be published to boost FTIL share prices on the stock so that their high stake investors can sell off the stocks in a manited rally.
              Reply
              1. K
                KANHAIYALAL G
                Dec 15, 2015 at 5:14 am
                SEEMS TO A PAID ARTICLE. THE AUTHOR IS NOT SERIOUS ABOUT A GROUP OF PERSON WHO LOST THEIR HARD MONEY.
                Reply
                1. K
                  kumaar
                  Dec 16, 2015 at 1:22 pm
                  Biased and motivated. Unlike button is rigged.Fraud is established ED has found money laundering evidence merge
                  Reply
                  1. K
                    kumaar
                    Dec 16, 2015 at 1:33 pm
                    Why us JS against the merger.? He and is family owns majority of the shares. The retail investors money involved is pittance. Once merged the ftil investors can be paid but what about the 5609 crs of 13099 investors. How is going to be paid
                    Reply
                    1. Kamal Gupta
                      Dec 18, 2015 at 12:07 pm
                      NSEL-FTIL merger is a fit case where concept of lifting of corporate veil should be applied. If we look at the annual accounts of FTIL, it clearly states that nuturing and creation of values in the newly incorporated companies is the one of the main object of the company (i.e. FTIL). FTIL had incorporated more than 35 companies over a period of 8-9 years and made a huge gain by selling stake in MCX and other exchanges. Further FTIL was earning more than 60% of its revenues from the subsidiaries companies which it had incorporated over a period of 8-9 years. These facts are clearly demonstrated from the published annual accounts of FTIL. If anybody wants a complete analysis of FTIL, I can provide the same.
                      Reply
                      1. R
                        Rachit
                        Dec 16, 2015 at 3:08 pm
                        @Financial Express-how do you fail to mention such an important disclaimer that Crawford & Bayley has been representing FTIL for years together and one of its partners has also been on the BOD of FTIL. Their own website says so:
                        Reply
                        1. R
                          Ricky
                          Dec 15, 2015 at 5:28 am
                          Paid article, Embaring. Wonder how much you made and how much this so called paper made.
                          Reply
                          1. S
                            sumit
                            Dec 15, 2015 at 6:06 am
                            really shame on this article where 13000 families lost their hard earn money this article clearly shows to favor scams so please BJP you are hope for India help the 13000 families and dont go by these articles ache din must b for victims not for fraud companies and scamsters.plzz help
                            Reply
                            1. S
                              sumit
                              Dec 15, 2015 at 6:18 am
                              wow these type of articles usually came whenever merger is going to happen i think govt must have investigate the relationship between fraudsters and the writer of this article financial express is having a good retion cant expect this from him
                              Reply
                              1. T
                                Tintin
                                Dec 15, 2015 at 8:42 am
                                Mr. Sanjay how much were you paid for this article? Shame on you!!
                                Reply
                                1. T
                                  Tintin
                                  Dec 15, 2015 at 9:16 am
                                  You want to imply that every company can incorporate a daughter company, loot the people, transfer the funds and then say that since the crime was committed in the subsidiary, the mother company or its management has no responsibilities. How disgusting!
                                  Reply
                                  1. D
                                    dinesh
                                    Dec 15, 2015 at 4:15 pm
                                    Shame on the writer.He does not speak a word on scam.How can he be so inhuman to the misery of investors who lost their entire savings in this wellplanned scam
                                    Reply
                                    1. R
                                      Raghave
                                      Dec 18, 2015 at 9:53 am
                                      How can Crawford Bayley & Co write articles for their clients in newspapers. They are the legal advisers of FT. Have they lost faith in their abilities?
                                      Reply
                                      1. S
                                        Steve
                                        Dec 15, 2015 at 4:07 am
                                        What a useless article sanjay. The only article u have ever written in your life has been prepared and drafted by jignesh shah and his cronies. Please don't mislead the public by publishing articles that are irrelevant and far from truth. If you want facts please check the entire case history. There are more than 1 lakh shareholders of igl, mmtc and sevrral other companies which has lost hundreds of crores because of nsel. What about their interest.
                                        Reply
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