Mumbai: India’s capital markets regulator, Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi) ordered Bata India Ltd on Monday to carry out an internal probe into the suspected leak of unpublished financial data and asked the footwear maker to strengthen its handling of such data.

The direction from Sebi widens an ongoing investigation after a Reuters report late last year showed prescient messages about financial results of companies were shared in WhatsApp groups before their official release.

Reuters identified 12 such instances relating to as many companies, with HDFC Bank Ltd and Axis Bank Ltd among the firms identified. Both of those banks have been issued orders similar to the one handed to Bata.

Bata’s financial information circulated in WhatsApp groups “matched with the quarterly financial results of the company for December 31, 2015," the regulator said on Monday.

This could not have been possible without the “leakage of information" from a person, or people, privy to the information, Sebi said, adding it pointed to the inadequacy of the processes and systems that Bata India has in place.

Sebi ordered Bata India to investigate the issue and take action against those responsible within three months and submit a report to the regulator. Bata India could not be reached immediately outside regular business hours.

SEBI sent a similar order last week to Tata Motors Ltd, which owns luxury brand Jaguar Land Rover.

The Reuters report has sparked a broad investigation by the regulator since December, including raids on brokers’ homes that resulted in the confiscation of laptops and mobile phones. Reuters

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