ESG rating providers

Regulation of ESG Rating Providers in India

ESG ratings and third-party data products have played an important role in the ESG ecosystem so far, especially in the absence of consistent and comparable issuer disclosures. Even though investors are increasingly relying on the ESG ratings to determine a company’s performance on ESG issues and to gauge the ESG related risks, the current rating systems have low reliability due to the lack of transparency and inconsistency in rating methodologies. To address these deficiencies, the International Organization of Securities Commissions (“IOSCO”) tabled a report on ESG Ratings and Data Products Providers (“IOSCO Report”), encouraging individual jurisdictions to adopt a global reporting baseline for investor oriented ESG rating system. The Securities and Exchange Board of India (“SEBI”) has released a consultation paper dated January 24, 2022, on ESG Rating Providers for Securities Markets (“Consultation Paper”) taking into account the recommendations made to the regulators in the IOSCO Report. This note aims at understanding the concept of ESG ratings and the need for their regulation. This note further explains (i) the issues in the current system of ESG ratings being provided by ERPs as identified by SEBI in its Consultation Paper; and (ii) the framework being proposed in the Consultation Paper to develop a legal regime for regulation of ERPs in India.


India’s place in the International Investment Regime

The Elephant in the Room: India’s Place in the International Investment Regime

On August 29, 2022, the Delhi High Court set aside an arbitral award from 2015 issued by the International Chamber of Commerce in the Antrix-Devas dispute. While the High Court’s verdict is being hailed as a significant win for the Indian government, it is also time that India became more proactive in global debates related to foreign investment and learnt how to avoid such defensive situations in the first place. This note discusses why India should start asserting itself as a key player in the international investment regime and identifies the areas in which it has been falling short in this regard, including, in particular, in respect of its corresponding dispute resolution system.


overseas investment regime in india

New Overseas Investments Regime in India

On August 22, 2022, the Government of India notified the new regime for overseas investments by Indian entities and individuals. The new regime is a mixed bag of liberalizations, new restrictions and clarifications, and signals the revised thinking of the Reserve Bank of India in certain respects, particularly in relation to the scope of overseas investments and round tripping. This note discusses the changes introduced by the new regime and its impact on cross border transactions.


Enforceability Of Arbitration Agreement

Does Non-payment of Stamp Duty Affect Enforceability of Arbitration Agreements?

There is, often, a complex interplay between transnational legal standards for the enforcement of commercial contracts and various domestic legislations. One such category of legislations in India which affects, and sometimes delays, the enforcement of arbitration agreements are legislations relating to collection of stamp duty, in particular the Indian Stamp Act, 1899 and certain state-specific legislations relating to collection of stamp duty (collectively, the “Stamp Duty Law”). Under the Stamp Duty Law, an insufficiently stamped instrument is liable to be impounded. Further, until such an instrument is sufficiently stamped, the instrument remains inadmissible in evidence. What then is the fate of an arbitration clause within an instrument that is either not stamped or insufficiently stamped? Will the relevant authority before which such instrument is presented under the provisions of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996 refuse to refer the parties to arbitration; appoint an arbitrator; grant interim relief sought by the party? Or, would the separability doctrine (that an arbitration agreement is separate and distinct from the substantive contract in which it is contained) salvage such an arbitration clause?


Material Adverse Effect

Renewed Spotlight on Material Adverse Effect Clauses following Covid-19 and the Musk-Twitter Dispute

Material Adverse Effect (“MAE”) clauses are once again in focus with the recent Musk-Twitter dispute arising from the termination of the transaction related to the acquisition of Twitter on MAE grounds. This note discusses certain issues relating to MAE clauses from a practical perspective in an M&A setting and how these clauses have been interpreted by courts in the past.


IPL franchise

Transactions involving IPL Franchises: Legal Due Diligence

With the recent auction and sale of media rights of the Indian Premier League (“IPL”) by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (“BCCI”) for over INR 480 billion (approximately USD  6 billion), IPL franchises are in the spotlight. Reports suggest that certain IPL franchise owners may look to capitalize on an improved valuation, and either sell a part (or all) of their shareholding in the legal entity that has bid for and owns the IPL franchise, or may even consider a public listing of such legal entity.  In this note, we look at key legal due diligence issues that may arise in connection with transactions involving IPL franchises.


SEBI circular

Changes to Quarterly Shareholding Disclosures by Listed Entities in India

On June 30, 2022, the Securities and Exchange Board of India (“SEBI”) issued a circular amending the quarterly shareholding pattern disclosed by listed entities in India (the “2022 Circular”). This amended an earlier SEBI circular dated November 30, 2015. The 2022 Circular comes into force with effect from the quarter ending September 30, 2022. Listed entities are required to submit their shareholding pattern to the stock exchanges within 21 days of the end of each quarter in formats prescribed under the circulars. This note discusses certain key changes implemented by the 2022 Circular.


independent directors

Monitoring Independent Directors: Who Will Guard the Guards?

Since the introduction of the concept of independent directors, it has been perceived as an easy remedy to poor corporate governance. Their efficacy in effectively monitoring company management is often taken at face value. Studying recent instances of corporate governance lapses provides an insight into the efficacy of independent directors. To plug gaps, regulators constantly strive to raise the bar on the relevant criteria for determining the independence, and the procedure for the appointment, of independent directors. However, the changes affected do not appear to address the problem at hand. In the United States, unlike in India, shareholders have often pursued derivative claims against independent directors. While these derivative actions are not always successful, they function as an additional check on independent directors’ actions. Derivative actions are also pursued by shareholders in India. However, they: (a) are rarely pursued against independent directors; and (b) typically arise out of situations where directors have committed a fraud on the shareholders rather than when they have simply failed to perform their duties. For independent directors in India to function as an effective check on management, the threat of shareholder action needs to be a real one.


ESG in India

Indian Legal Regime for ESG

The need for addressing Environmental, Social and Governance (“ESG”) related aspects, has never had more prominence than now. There is growing recognition of the financial and economic impacts of ESG risks across the globe and the investors are increasingly relying on ESG as an important metric to guide their investment decisions. Internationally, regulators and enforcement agencies are taking greater cognizance of ESG related issues and a more stringent view of non-compliances or greenwashing by any business regarding their ESG credentials. The impact of climate change, requirement of good governance and protection of interest of various stakeholders are increasingly forming part of various formal and informal dialogues, particularly in the post COVID era. At the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference (“COP-26”) held in Glasgow, United Kingdom, India, along with 196 other countries made enhanced commitments towards mitigating the risks associated with climate change. The recent legal developments have demonstrated that the regulatory landscape for ESG in India has developed at a measured but regular pace and the Indian regulatory authorities are now catching up on the ESG trends that have been ongoing at a global level. With so much being said and done in relation to ESG on a day-to-day basis, it is sometimes difficult to focus on the real issue. This note aims to explain the concept of ESG and provides a brief overview of the Indian regulatory landscape in relation to ESG.


digital markets

Digital Markets Must be Defined Well for Competition Regulation

The rise of the digital sector has presented unique challenges for Indian regulatory authorities, including the Competition Commission of India (“CCI”), thanks to significant differences in the way such markets operate compared to traditional markets. There is growing demand, worldwide and in India, to hold digital platforms responsible and accountable for adverse impacts caused by them. A preliminary step involved in such probes is that of defining a ‘relevant market’ within which such digital platforms operate. This note analyzes the CCI’s approach on defining a ‘relevant market’ in the digital sector so far, and the need of the hour in terms of considering all substitutable and interchangeable products or services while defining such markets.