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Sebi clears nine current and former NSE executives

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MUMBAI: Markets regulator Sebi has given clean chit to nine people, including Ravi Narain, former MD of NSE, in a case in which it was alleged that a host of NSE officials had colluded to favour a handful of brokers to make illegal gains using the NSE’s optical fibre network that connected it to its derivatives trading server. Popularly called the NSE’s co-location or co-lo case, there were several allegations of wrongdoing on Narain and other ex-NSE officials including R Nandakumar, senior VP (operations), Jagdish Joshi, co-lo head, and N Muralidharan and Ravi Apte, chief technology officers (CTOs).

A host of serving NSE officials was also named in the case and have been exonerated. They are Mayur Sindhwad, chief operating officer (Trading), Sankarson Banerjee, CTO-Projects, G Shenoy, CTO-Operations and Suprabhat Lala, VP-Regulations.

Sebi in its order said that none of the nine officials was occupying a post of director and/or a key managerial position at NSE during the relevant period, which was between April and July, 2015. “The materials available on record also don’t indicate even remotely, the role of any of the noticees as an employee of NSE in facilitating Sampark Inftainment to establish the (optical fibre) connectivity at NSE,” the regulator said in its order.

In this high-profile case it was alleged that exchange officials had allowed a non-registered service provider, Sampark Infotainment, to lay optic fibre network connectivity between the exchange’s trading room and the servers of a select brokers in such a way that these brokers enjoyed faster speed of trading over all other brokers. In the exchange trading business where very sophisticated computers that use complex algorithms to take advantage of price discrepancies within micro-seconds, such advantages could result into huge profits. The case relates to the allegations of wrongdoing between 2013 and 2015.

It was also alleged that NSE these nine officials did not act in a fair and equitable manner in their dealing with the brokers. A further allegation was that NSE had amended its rules in an opaque manner to allow Sampark Infotainment to provide network services from within its premises despite the company not being registered with it. Sebi didn’t find any evidence in this matter too to proceed against these officials.

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