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SEBI asks HDFC Bank to strengthen internal systems

MUMBAI: The Securities and Exchange Board of India has asked HDFC Bank to strengthen its internal processes and systems after the regulator noticed leakage of price sensitive information relating to financial results on WhatsApp groups before it was officially announced on stock exchanges.

The regulator on Friday asked the country's largest private sector lender in terms of market capitalisation, to conduct an internal inquiry on all the persons involved in the preparation of board notes and presentations, who had access to information, were involved in consolidation of the figures and dissemination of information relating to financial results in the public domain.

Sebi has also sought inquiry on all the members of committees involved in generation of the original data for the purpose of determinsation of key figures pertaining to financial figures including Gross non performing assets (GNPA).

The regulator has directed the bank to complete its inquiry within a period of three months from the date of the order and submit its report.

HDFC Bank is one of the 12 companies whose financial results were leaked on WhatsApp group before it was officially announced on stock exchanges.

Sebi said its preliminary examination showed that the messages circulated in WhatsApp groups almost matched the quarterly financial results of HDFC Bank for June 2017, which were published subsequently.

The regulator said such resemblance of the information circulated in the WhatsApp groups with the actual financial results prime facie indicates that the financial figures of HDFC Bank, were in circulation prior to official announcement.

"The same could not have been possible without leakage of information from the persons,who were privy to the information relating to financials prior to its official announcement," Madhabi Puri Buch whole-time member of Sebi said in her order.

The regulator said at this stage, the source and origin of the leakage of unpublished price sensitive information cannot be ascertained.

"Such leakage is prima facie attributable to the inadequacy of the processes/controls and systems that HDFC Bank as a listed company had put in palce,"Sebi said.

Last year in November, Reuters reported that financial results of some of the major Indian companies including Dr Reddy's were circulated in WhatsApp groups of traders just before the companies officially declared the results

Other companies whose financial results were leaked include Cipla, Tata Steel, Wipro, Bajaj Finance, Mahindra Holidays and Resorts and Crompton Greaves Consumer Electricals.

Last year in December ,Sebi conducted a ‘search and seizure’ operation with the help of Mumbai police on 34 individuals who are dealers and research analysts with various leading broking firms.

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