Sebi penalises one person found guilty in Bata India WhatsApp leak case

It was observed that the financial figures of Bata pertaining to sales, PAT and EBITDA circulated through WhatsApp closely matched with those disclosed subsequently by the company on stock exchanges

Markets regulator Sebi has penalised one person after finding her guilty of releasing unpublished price sensitive information related to financial results of Bata India Ltd through WhatsApp messages prior to official announcement by the company.

In an order, the regulator levied a fine of Rs 15 lakh on Shruti Vishal Vora, who works with Antique Stock Broking Ltd.

Earlier, the regulator had penalised Vora for releasing unpublished price sensitive information (UPSI) related to financial results of Bajaj Auto, Ambuja Cement, Wipro, Mindtree and Asian Paints through WhatsApp messages.

Some news reports had referred to the circulation of UPSI in various private WhatsApp groups about certain companies ahead of their official announcements to the respective stock exchanges.

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Against this backdrop, Sebi had initiated a preliminary examination in the matter during which search and seizure operation for 26 entities for WhatsApp groups were conducted, and about 190 devices, records, among others, were seized.

WhatsApp chats extracted from the seized devices were examined further and while examining the chats, it was found that earnings data and other financial information of around 12 companies were leaked through WhatsApp messages.

Bata was one of the firms whose quarterly financial result was leaked.

Accordingly, the regulator carried out an investigation in the matter of circulation of UPSI through WhatsApp messages with respect to Bata to ascertain any possible violation of the PIT (Prohibition of Insider Trading) Regulations during January 1, 2016 to January 10, 2016 period.

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The probe found that Vora, among others, communicated the UPSI related to Bata pertaining to sales, profit after tax (PAT) and EBITDA for the quarter ended December 2015 to other person through WhatsApp messages.

It was observed that the financial figures of Bata pertaining to sales, PAT and EBITDA circulated through WhatsApp closely matched with those disclosed subsequently by the company on stock exchanges.

Hence, the message related to Bata fell under UPSI, and such circulation of financial figures through WhatsApp was considered as communication of UPSI.

"The noticee(Vora) being insider had communicated the UPSI relating to Bata to other person through WhatsApp messages, which is in violation of the provisions of ...PIT Regulations, 2015, for which the noticees are liable for monetary penalty," Sebi said in an order passed on Thursday.

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As per the PIT norms, any person who is in possession of UPSI is regarded as an insider.



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