Mutual Funds

SEBI has no info on whether MF trustees have dedicated staff

Suresh P Iyengar Mumbai | Updated on September 27, 2021

Regulator last year made it mandatory to assist trustees

Nearly one year after announcing new norms to empower trustees of mutual funds with dedicated support staff, SEBI has no information on fund houses’ compliance with its diktat.

Last August, SEBI has strengthened the MF trustees role by mandating them to appoint a dedicated officer with a 5-year experience to assist them in discharging their duties. Further, trustees were also directed to have a standing arrangement with independent firms for special purpose audit and seek legal advice.

The measures, taken by SEBI to enable trustees efficiently oversee activities of AMCs, were originally scheduled to be implemented from last October, but postponed to January 2021 due to Covid challenges.

RTI application

Vijay Trimbak Gokhale, a lawyer and former investment banker, had filed a RTI (right to information) application with SEBI seeking details on the number of trustee companies that have appointed dedicated officers and established standing arrangements with independent firms for special purpose audit and legal advice.

In a response, SEBI said the information is not available with it.

Claiming that SEBI has committed a contempt of Supreme Court, Gokhale said earlier the Apex court has insisted that under Article 141 of the Constitution, Central Public Information Office, should access information from entities which are under its regulatory control and provide to the information seeker, said Gokhale.

The Section 2 (f) of RTI Act says that if information is accessible from a private body by any public authority under any other law, then the public body is duty bound to access it in exercise of the powers conferred under any other law and provide it to the RTI applicant, he said.

The Section clearly does not say that a public authority can access the information for providing it to the RTI applicant only if such information is accessible for the purpose of discharging duties, he added.

SEBI did not respond to a mail sent by BusinessLine.

Makarand Joshi, Founding Partner, MMJC and Associates LLP said there have been two landmark judgments by the apex court with respect to obligation to provide data collected by regulator.

In context to Trustees of mutual funds, he said, SEBI has not come out with any specific reporting format on compliance status.

“While SEBI’s mandate is to develop and regulate the capital market is paramount, it should also enforce various norms and compliance as part of its job,” he added.

Published on September 27, 2021

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