At the height of the Ambani settlement drama, a news agency reported that Mukesh Ambani’s confidante Anand Jain had resigned from the board of IPCL Ltd. The grapevine said that Anil had apparently insisted on Jain’s resignation as condition for completing the settlement. The rumour seemed plausible, because Anil has gone public with his antipathy for Jain when he resigned from the IPCL board, saying that it was ‘beneath him’ to be on the same board with Jain. But the IPCL directors, without any public statements, had sacrificed Anil rather than Jain. Now, here is the zinger. Jain has apparently not resigned from IPCL at all. He did not bother to deny the rumour during the settlement announcement, probably because he was busy with his daughter’s wedding and refuses to comment even today, beyond pointing to corporate processes. On checking, we find that IPCL’s website continues to list Jain as a director while Anil’s name has been removed. IPCL has also not sent any notice to the stock exchanges about Jain’s resignation. Is this yet another example of how the media has become an easy prey to corporate plants, albeit via news agencies?
It can only be bad news for investors that turf wars between various financial market regulators seem to be hotting up in the last few weeks. The Reserve Bank of India has made several big moves to expand its regulatory footprint into what is clearly Securities Exchange Board of India’s domain. The RBI is understood to have got its way over its move to eliminate brokers from the debt market, move most trading to the Negotiated Dealing System and away from reporting to the bourses. It has also marked out new territory in the debt markets by putting the recently returned Deputy Governor (who reportedly swung the NDS issue in RBI’s favour while at the Finance Ministry) in charge of what it calls the Financial Markets Department. Further, the RBI has appointed an expert panel, headed by Dr. R.H. Patil on the development of the corporate debt market — which is clearly SEBI’s domain. Ironically, many market intermediaries had believed that SEBI Chairman, M. Damodaran had an excellent rapport with the RBI Governor. But the bank’s recent moves have flummoxed the market. When it comes to companies, SEBI’s role overlaps with that of the Ministry of Company Affairs (MCA) and there has always been a lot of friction in that relationship. Recently, the MCA got together with the Confederation of Indian Industries as well as the Institutes of Company Secretaries and Institute of Chartered Accountants to set up a National Foundation for Corporate Governance. Monitoring corporate behaviour is certainly part of SEBI’s domain, but it was significantly kept out.
When SEBI introduced Unique Identification Numbers using biometric identification, it expected that the MAPIN database would be foolproof. However, ingenious crooks were already preparing to find ways to misuse the system. One of the members of the panel that reviewed MAPIN claimed to have specific information about a truck fleet owner who had allegedly had 98 drivers registered under the database. According to him, there was no way that any of the drivers, whose came from different parts of the country, could be linked to him or to each other. His point: that the system would need more than biometrics to nail determined crooks. It remains to be seen how the new MAPIN will eliminate this kind of mischief.