A full bench of the Securities Appellate Tribunal (SAT), headed by presiding officer JP Devdhar, today concluded the hearing on the nearly four-year- long insider trading case against Reliance Industries and said it will pronounce the order on June 30.
Reliance has been fighting against market watchdog Sebi in the alleged insider-trading case since December 2010 and since last year the regulator’s exclusion of the company from the new consent mechanism.
The case dates back to 2008, when Sebi alleged insider trading against RIL while merging its subsidiary Reliance Petroleum (RPL) with itself in 2007, and the Mukesh Ambani-led company challenged the Sebi charges at the SAT in December 2010.
If RIL loses the case at SAT on Monday, it could be asked to pay over Rs 1,500 crore, as according to Sebi, RIL made Rs 513 crore of profit out of this trade. The new consent mechanism allows Sebi to charge up to three times the ill-gotten profit by way of insider trading.
RIL can challenge the SAT verdict in a High Court or the Supreme Court.
The case also involves Reliance challenging the maintainability of the Sebi decision’s to exclude it from the consent mechanism under the new norms issued for the same in January 2013.
Today, senior Sebi counsel Darius Khambatta argued for the maintainability of the regulator rejecting RIL application to resolve the case through the consent mechanism route citing the new January 2013 consent provisions. He also said the SAT cannot maintain the RIL appeal as the revised consent mechanism norms apply to the RIL case.
He also recalled that the Sebi rejected the RIL appeal for consent, as the case involved serious violations of Sebi norms apart from conducting fraudulent and unfair trading practices.
The Consent mechanism is a provision that the Sebi has introduced to settle issues with market participants, under which a fined company can settle the issue with Sebi after paying a penalty but without accepting or rejecting Sebi charges.
RIL senior counsel Janakdwaraka Das argued that the settlement proceedings should be conducted as per the regulations made under Sebi Ordinance and that it cannot arbitrarily exclude someone from a redressal mechanism.
Sebi had notified the new consent norms on January 9, 2013, after issuing the draft regulations in May 2012.
Under the new norms, Sebi excluded cases involving larger amount/fines from the settlement process. Though the new norms were issued only in January 2013, Sebi said its provisions were applicable with retrospective effect from April 2010, something RIL termed as arbitrary.
RIL, prior to the merger of Reliance Petroleum with itself, allegedly short-sold 4.1 per cent stake in RPL valued at Rs 4,023 crore to prevent a slump in the stock. The RPL shares were sold first in the futures market and later in the spot market, covering the share sales in the futures market, it was alleged.
In 2008, Sebi initiated a probe into the matter and in 2010 began quasi-judicial proceedings and said it had found that RIL had booked a profit of Rs 513 crore in the futures segment through this deal worth Rs 4,023 crore.
The Sebi argued that the company was aware of the sale of shares and sold futures ahead of that, therefore amounting to insider trading, and sent a show-cause notice to the company.
RIL had challenged the Sebi show-cause notice in December 2010.
Following this, Sebi ordered a probe and found that RIL had violated insider trading norms.
Though RIL moved Sebi for consent settlement, the regulator did not entertain the application, forcing RIL to move the SAT.