Market regulator Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi) in a Friday night order barred Karvy Stock Broking Ltd. from taking on new clients after finding alleged client fraud of ₹2,000 crore.
Sebi said the firm misused client collateral for its own trades. As per Sebi’s intermediary regulations, brokerage firms cannot create additional pledges on clients’ securities.
In an effort to prevent further misuse of clients securities, Sebi, as an interim measure, barred Karvy from taking any more clients in respect of its stock broking business till the regulator completes its investigations. Karvy was also been barred from acting on behalf of its clients.
Sebi has initiated a forensic audit to establish the extent of alleged misuse of client pledges, and directed exchanges and depositories to initiate disciplinary proceedings against the brokerage firm.
However, in view of the fact that Karvy manages a large number of clients, Sebi is ensuring smooth operations by asking depositories to monitor the flow of money from clients’ accounts.
Sebi said Karvy, despite not having any legal rights to create a pledge on these securities and generate funds, did so to the tune of ₹2,000 crore. “Even if the client securities were pledged, it should be (used) only for meeting the obligation of the respective clients," said Sebi member Ananta Barua in a 12-page order.
The order said an NSE inspection showed Karvy had transferred a net amount ₹1,096 crore to its group firm Karvy Realty between April 2016 and October 2019.
The brokerage also sold pledged client shares via off-market transfer as its own in five out of nine client accounts amounting to ₹228.07 crore in 2019, and transferred stocks worth ₹27.8 crore from 156 clients. None of these trades were executed or authorized by the clients.
Apart from prohibiting the entity from taking new clients in respect of its stock broking activities, the watchdog directed NSDL and CDSL not to act upon any instruction given by Karvy in pursuance of power of attorney given by its clients. Karvy has been given 21 days time from the date of receiving the order to file its objections or responses, if any, PTI reported.