WhatsApp leak: Sebi, exchanges checking listed companies’ trade details

The logo of the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) is pictured on the premises of its headquarters in Mumbai.

Sebi and exchanges have started examining trade details of over two dozen stocks as part of a probe into alleged leak of key financial details of these companies through WhatsApp while the regulator is also considering seeking call data records of the persons involved.

The companies include several listed blue-chip firms, officials said on the condition of anonymity.

The exchanges are analysing the trade data of the last 12 months of such companies in order to detect any possible breach of norms while Sebi is taking the help of data warehouse and its intelligence systems, they added.

Under Sebi rules, all the financial details of listed companies should be disseminated only through stock exchanges as they are considered price-sensitive.

Besides, Sebi is considering seeking call data records (CDRs) of all the persons involved in alleged circulation of key financial details and other information about listed companies on social media groups before they are made public.

The markets regulator has powers to seek call data records, excluding the exact content of the communication, from telecom firms.

CDRs generally list out the number of conversations between two or more entities and are different from phone- tapping, where an agency can snoop on or record telephonic conversations of those suspected to be engaged in some wrong- doings.

The information about the listed companies is mostly being made through SMSes, WhatsApp and various social media platforms, where names of some established brokerage houses and exchanges are also being misused.

While the Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi) has already taken action in several such cases so far, it is investigating a number of others involving similar activities, the official said.

The regulator has already taken action against several entities for providing investment advice without registration. These included MCX Biz Solutions, Moneyworld Research and Advisory, Global Mount Money Research and Advisory, GoCapital, CapitalVia Global Research and one Imtiyaz Hanif Khanda and his maternal uncle Vali Mamad Habib Ghaniwala.

Besides tightening its noose around the scamsters, Sebi has stepped up its investor awareness campaign on these issues.

In several latest public notices, Sebi has cautioned the investors against trading on the basis of unsolicited tips received through SMSes, social media, websites and other public media platforms.

It also asked the public to deal with only Sebi- registered investment advisors and research analysts and warned the unregistered entities of strict action.

In August, Sebi had got the help from telecom regulator Trai to curb fraudulent bulk SMSes that entrap gullible investors with stock tips promising huge financial gains.

Last year, Sebi had floated a consultation paper to ban unauthorised trading tips through SMSes, WhatsApp, Twitter, Facebook and other social media platforms, as also games, competitions and leagues relating to the securities market.

However, the regulator has yet to put in place a final regulation in this regard. PTI SP BJ ARD