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New consent settlement norms soon: Sebi

New Delhi(PTI): Market regulator found lack of uniformity and necessary details in the prevailing system

Market regulator Sebi is set to put in place a new and detailed mechanism for its ‘consent’ procedure — an out-of-court-like settlement through which it settles cases of suspected irregularities by listed companies and various market entities.

The Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi) decided to revise the existing consent procedure, after it found lack of uniformity and necessary details in the prevailing system, which is in place since 2007, a senior official said.

The new consent mechanism, which could be announced soon by the regulator, has been finalised after months of deliberations that began around middle of 2011 and involved consultations within Sebi and with the government officials and outside experts, he added.

In the consent process, the entity facing a probe by Sebi is subjected to certain fees and restrictions without admission or denial of alleged irregularities and the regulator thereafter drops its charges and the investigations.

As per the existing consent norms, Sebi can impose a penalty higher between Rs 25 crore and an amount equivalent to three times the profit allegedly made by the suspected entity through insider trading or other manipulative activity.

Different yardsticks

Sebi decided to revise the process after an internal study found that different yardsticks might have been applied in different consent cases and there was no consistency or any clear-cut uniformity in the way such cases were being handled.

Besides, it also came across cases being settled with entities from same group on more than one occasion, although a consent order is broadly considered as a warning to the related party for not repeating similar offences.

Discretionary powers

Another point of contention was certain discretionary powers given to Sebi officials settling the probe.

The revised norms would also aim to remove the perceptions about consent orders being mostly subjective, not being adequately transparent in nature, and providing an escape route to the alleged offenders. Sources said future consent orders could be framed in such a way so that they can be taken as a warning from the regulator and could work as a ‘name and shame’ directive for those alleged to have erred in market dealings.

Besides, the new norms would bring in more clarity on how such orders should be framed, as also at what time and in which cases consent orders should be passed.

Sebi introduced consent settlement system in April, 2007 with a view to cut down on its costs, time and efforts in taking up the enforcement actions. So far, the regulator has passed more than 1,000 consent orders.

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