Does the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002 Safeguard Third-party Rights in the Course of Attachment of Properties?

A key feature of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002 (the “Act”) is the power of the investigating agency under the Act, i.e., the Directorate of Enforcement (the “ED”), to provisionally attach any property believed to be involved in money laundering for an initial period up to 180 days from the date of such attachment. This provision ensures that proceeds that are obtained directly or indirectly from the offences noted under the Act (“scheduled offences”) are not dealt with in any manner so as to frustrate proceedings relating to the confiscation of such proceeds under the Act. Ex facie, this provision appears to be in direct conflict with the rights of bona fide third-parties such as banks, mortgagees, transferee, and lessee etc. who may otherwise have a lawful interest in a property alleged to be involved in money laundering and had no knowledge of such involvement at the time of acquisition of interest in such property. In light of this apparent conflict, does the Act adequately safeguard the rights of such third-parties who have a lawful interest in a property provisionally attached by the ED?


The Conundrum of “Unpublished Information” under the Insider Trading Regulations

The SEBI’s Insider Trading Regulations prohibit trading in listed securities when in possession of unpublished price-sensitive information (“UPSI”). Therefore one question which invariably needs to be addressed in such matters is whether the information that was alleged to be UPSI was “unpublished”. In a recent order issued by the SEBI in February 2021, Future Corporate Resources Private Limited, Mr. Kishori Biyani and certain other persons (together, the “Noticees”) were held to be in violation of the Insider Trading Regulations. It was alleged that the Noticees traded in shares of Future Retail Limited when in the possession of UPSI. The Noticees argued, inter alia, that the information that was alleged to be UPSI was already in the public domain in the form of media reports. This argument was rejected by the SEBI. It was not the first time that such an argument was made. It will likely not be the last. However, the backdrop is that the original 1992 regulations, and then the amendments in 2002 and 2015, have taken divergent approaches on this point. It has also not helped that the orders of adjudicatory authorities on this point have been inconsistent.


SPACs: A ReNew-ed Interest in US Listings

In 2020, over $80 billion was raised in the US from more than 200 SPACs (special purpose acquisition companies), with SPAC IPOs comprising over 50% of US IPOs. While Indian laws have been amended to facilitate cross-border mergers, regulatory and taxation challenges restrict the ability of the parties to efficiently merge an Indian company with the SPAC. The parties’ objectives could therefore be met through externalisation and structuring within the scope of Indian regulations. Apart from the regulatory and taxation challenges involved in a US listing through the SPAC route, Indian companies should also be prepared for compliance with a stringent governance, internal controls, accounting and disclosure regime. Several Indian technology companies have plans to go public. It remains to be seen how many will opt for the SPAC route, which has increasingly emerged as an attractive option for companies around the world particularly in the technology and ESG sectors. In the meanwhile, the SPAC alternative could also well be explored by Indian regulators as a route for listing in India with appropriate safeguards.


Defining Control: Future Retail vs. Amazon

The recent interpretation of “control” by the High Court of Delhi in a litigation between Future Retail and Amazon has once again focused attention on the perennial question of what constitutes control. As described in more detail in the note, this question cannot be considered in abstract; it must be considered in the context of a specific legislation or policy and the objective it seeks to achieve. The relevant provisions of the FDI policy, which provide the context in this case, may not have been correctly appreciated.


Bribery and Money-laundering Risk Management in M&A

As government agencies and regulators around the world are strengthening their enforcement efforts (having unearthed major bribery, corruption and money laundering related lapses by various corporates in the recent years), corporate activities have come under increased regulatory scrutiny. A target’s historical and existing anti-money laundering (AML) or anti-bribery, anti-corruption (ABAC) violations and resultant liabilities typically become the acquirer’s responsibility post-closing. This can have far-reaching legal, business and reputational consequences on the acquirer and in an extreme case, could result in an acquisition being a failure. As a result of this, acquirers have to be cognizant of not only any post-closing transgressions but also any pre-closing ones that they know, or ought to have known. The approach of a hurriedly-conducted limited due diligence with heavy reliance on warranties alone is therefore a risky one.
This note is divided into four parts – the first part provides a general overview of the key legislations. The second part highlights certain factors such as the target’s jurisdiction, sector, local laws and other cultural and geographical issues that typically influence such AML and ABAC issues. The third part outlines safeguards that are customarily adopted by the acquirers and the last part proposes certain measures that may be considered and implemented for effective risk-management by the acquirers.


Operational Creditors in Insolvency: A Tale of Disenfranchisement

This note attempts to explain the unique predicament of operational creditors under the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016 (IBC). It examines the various factors considered by the judiciary in recent pronouncements that have shaped the status of the operational creditors and outlines solutions that could be considered for a constructive resolution of the issues at hand.
This note is divided into four parts – the first part discusses certain issues considered by the Supreme Court in Committee of Creditors of Essar Steel India Limited v. Satish Kumar Gupta and others, and its key findings in this regard. In the second part, the authors highlight how the IBC and the ruling of the Supreme Court unfairly disadvantage operational creditors, and offer solutions in line with international practice. In the third part, the authors point out a lacuna in the IBC regarding the treatment of the claims of creditors with ‘disputed’ claims in an insolvency resolution process and propose an alternate framework to determine such claims. The last part underscores the key takeaways from this article and a few concluding thoughts.


Purchase Price Adjustments in Court Schemes

Price adjustments in M&A transaction documentation enable parties to align the consideration originally negotiated at signing to the facts and circumstances existing at closing. Such adjustments become particularly important when there is a protracted time gap between signing and closing, usually due to statutory and regulatory approvals, and in case of listed entities, volatility in the financial markets. Certain transactions are implemented through tribunal-approved schemes of merger, de-merger, etc. (“Schemes”). While Schemes offer certain advantages such as an exemption from takeover regulations in case of listed entities, price adjustments in such transactions are subject to greater scrutiny and constraints, given requirements for tribunal approval and in the case of listed entities, pricing requirements and review by stock exchanges and the securities regulator. This note sets out certain price adjustment mechanisms that could be considered by parties to Schemes involving listed entities.


Can India be the Pied Piper that Entices Foreign Companies out of China?

For nearly a decade and half, India has been the China-in-waiting. The world’s back-up or the next manufacturing center. There have been many discussions and writings through this period that have urged India to get its act together and provide that alternative to China. Not for the lack of will but its implementation, this move just did not happen and China continued to flourish and gain global supremacy in manufacturing. However, recent events including the disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic have once again opened an opportunity for India.


Avoidable Transactions under the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code: Key Considerations

For the success of any insolvency regime, it is critical that distressed companies are prevented from takings measures which could hamper recovery to creditors in the event insolvency proceedings were to commence. Such protective provisions assume particular importance in the Indian context, where companies are often closely held by promoter groups who may seek to transfer value from assets through opaque structures to other group companies for their own benefit. Accordingly, the National Company Law Tribunal (the “NCLT”) is empowered to undo any such transaction to protect the interests of creditors and other stakeholders under the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016 (the “IBC”).

Recently, in the matter of Anuj Jain Interim Resolution Professional for Jaypee Infratech Limited v. Axis Bank Limited and others (“Jaypee Infratech”), the Supreme Court of India clarified certain key aspects in respect of preferential transactions under Section 43 of the IBC. Such preferential transactions are one of the four categories of “avoidable” transactions (i.e., those which may be annulled or disregarded) under the IBC, the others being undervalued, extortionate and/or fraudulent transactions.

This note briefly discusses the different types of avoidable transactions under the IBC, the guidance issued by the Supreme Court on certain aspects of such transactions in Jaypee Infratech and a few key considerations for parties to mitigate the risk of their transactions falling within the ambit of such avoidable transactions.


The Companies (Amendment) Bill, 2020: Decriminalizing offences under the Companies Act, 2013

Governmental authorities in India have, from time to time, implemented various measures to facilitate ease of doing business for companies operating in India including, inter alia, by way of amendments to the Companies Act, 2013 (the “Act”). In the past 1 (one) year, these reforms have focused on introducing new mechanisms for swift adjudication of offences, and decriminalization and rationalization of criminal penalties, particularly in relation to minor, technical or procedural non-compliances under the Act.

The objective of decriminalization and recategorization of offences that was introduced by the Companies (Amendment) Act, 2019 is now sought to be augmented by the Companies (Amendment) Bill, 2020 (the “CAB 2020”) which was recently presented in the Lok Sabha on March 17, 2020. CAB 2020 has, amongst other matters, proposed amendments in respect of decriminalization of various compoundable offences and rationalization of penalties prescribed under the Act. CAB 2020 is currently awaiting legislative consideration.

In this note, we discuss the continuing efforts of the Indian governmental authorities towards streamlining the processes for dealing with certain non-compliances under the Act, and analyze if the critical changes proposed by CAB 2020 for further decriminalization of offences and alteration of penalties under the Act is a step in the right direction.