Cos amend structure of trusts as abuse of staff benefit schemes draws Sebi ire

Companies

Companies that formed trusts under the guise of employee benefit schemes to deal in their own shares have started falling in line after capital market regulator Sebi clamped down on such structures.

The recent past has seen many prominent listed entities disclosing that they indeed have such trusts while assuring complete regulatory compliance within the stipulated deadline.

According to stock exchange disclosures, companies like Piramal Glass, Inox Leisure, Piramal Life Sciences, JSW Steel, Mahindra Finance, Blue Star Infotech, Jubilant Life Sciences, Dalmia Bharat and Take Solutions, among others, have all formed trusts for employee benefit schemes.

The roots of the matter go back to January 17 when Sebi issued a circular stating that trusts formed under employee benefit schemes are being used to deal in the company's own shares. "It has come to the notice of Sebi that some listed entities have been framing their own employees' benefit schemes wherein trusts have been set up to deal in their own securities in the secondary market," said the circular.

Sebi is of the view that some companies have framed such schemes to deal in its own shares "with the object of inflating, depressing, maintaining or causing fluctuation in the price of the securities by engaging in fraudulent and unfair trade practices".

Interestingly, some companies have said that they believe that their trusts are in compliance with the law as they are not used to deal in the company's shares.

They, however, added that if required by Sebi, they will sell the shares in the market or transfer the same to the employees within the deadline of June 30.

Inox Leisure, for instance, has said that it proposes to "amend the trust deed so as to bring it in line with Sebi (ESOS and ESPS) Guidelines". Piramal Glass, on the other hand, said that while it feels that the company's ESOP trust is fully compliant with the law, any requirement of selling the shares in the open market "pose several difficulties and hardships".

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