Establishment of direct quantified damage/loss to an investor in personam is not an essential ingredient to prove charges of price manipulation; SEBI explains

Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI): S.K. Mohanty, (Whole Time Member) while holding the Noticees liable for manipulative trade practises explained,

“Establishment of direct quantified damage/loss to an investor in personam is not an essential ingredient to prove the charges of the price manipulation. The very acts of marking up the price of scrip higher by manipulative trading practices even by a selected few persons can induce the investors in rem.”

 Background

 A show caused notice (SCN) was issued by SEBI against the Noticees to ascertain whether the unusual price movement noticed in the scrip of Anukaran Commercial Enterprises Ltd.(“the Company”) was normal or it was caused by unscrupulous acts leading to any possible manipulation of the price of the scrip of the Company. The shares of the Company were listed on BSE. The price of the scrip saw an abnormal rise, which was not supported by any corporate announcements or material changes in the business activities of the Company. In this period, the first trade was executed at INR 35.15 whereas the last trade was executed at INR 256.25 and the scrip witnessed a sharp increase in price by INR 221.20 with just 60 trades executed within a period of 43 trading days. It is noticed that 16 entities sold the shares of the Company at a price higher than the last traded price (“LTP”) and contributed to the positive LTP. The investigation further revealed that out of the said 16 sellers, top 03 sellers have contributed more than 65% to the market positive LTP variance of the scrip.

Observations

 Regarding allegations against Noticee 1, the Board observed that, he had executed trades in minuscule quantities as over the period of 20 days, he had sold only 12 shares and further over a period of 15 trading days, and he preferred to sell only 1 share at a time aggregating to 15 shares. The notice 1 had been indulged in execution of sell trades with a minimum possible lot on each day, with an apparent motive to set a high closing price of the scrip, by contributing to the LTP variance to maximum possible limit, fixed by the Stock Exchange. It was also observed that, transfer of 100 shares of the Company to Noticee 1 by Noticee 2 was not genuine and was done only for the purpose of enabling manipulation in the price of the shares. Noticing the unique and unusual pattern of selling 01 share at a time on a continuous basis over a long period, trading in miniscule quantities by the Noticee no. 1 immediately after receipt of those 100 shares from notice 2, that consistently resulted in contributing to the LTP etc., the Board had reached to the findings that, the transactions were carried out with some ulterior motive to disturb market mechanism by artificially raising the price of shares of the Company.

It was further noticed that, Noticee 3 and Noticee 4 were involved in short selling of the shares, and by executing such trades in minimal quantities, they had indulged in the manipulation of the price of the scrip of the Company. Noticee 3 and 4 were involved in a series of unusual elements such as, absence of any other sellers on those trading days; execution of (short sale) trades at the fag end of the day leaving no time to off-set the contract; no intention of making profits; all trades being executed at prices higher than the LTP, no genuine effort to consolidate their shares stock when the scrip was witnessing price rise on a continuous basis etc. Therefore, there could not be any motive except; intention to carry out an agenda to manipulate the price.

The Board, while holding the Noticees liable for violating Regulation 3 (a), (b), (c), (d) and 4 (1), 4(2), (a) and (e) of PFUTP Regulations expressed,  “The market is governed by written rules and well established market practices have evolved over the period of time and any person resorting to any peculiar pattern of trading which has a cascading effect of distorting the market mechanism by way of creating artificial trading, leading to rise in the price of a scrip through manipulative trades by no means can be held as normal and fair trading in the market.”

Directions

On the basis of above considerations, the Board restrained all the Noticees from accessing the securities market and further prohibited them from buying, selling or otherwise dealing in securities or being associated with the securities market in any manner, for a period of six months. It was directed that, the existing holding of securities including the holding of units of mutual funds of the Noticees shall remain frozen. Further, all open positions, if any, of the aforesaid Noticees in the F&O segment of the stock exchange, were permitted to be squared off, irrespective of the prohibition imposed by this Order.[Anukarana Commercial Enterprises Ltd., In Re., decided on 08-01-2021]

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