Sebi bars CNBC Awaaz TV anchor Hemant Ghai, wife and mother for ‘fraud in trading’

The Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi) on Wednesday barred a television (TV) anchor Hemant Ghai, his wife and mother from accessing the capital markets for indulging in fraudulent trading activity.

The market regulator has alleged that the three individuals pocketed nearly Rs 3 crore between January 2019 and May 2020 by dealing in stocks that were being recommended on TV show Stock 20:20 on CNBC Awaaz, a leading business news channel.

“It was observed that Jaya Hemant Ghai (wife) and Shyam Mohini Ghai (mother) have undertaken a large number of Buy-Today-Sell-Tomorrow (BTST) trades during the relevant period in synchronization with the recommendations made in the Show. Shares were bought on the previous day to the recommendations being made on the stock 20-20 show and sold immediately on the recommendation day,” said Madhabi Puri Buch, whole time member (WTM), Sebi in an order.

The WTM has said the broad modus operandi of the scheme deployed by Ghai was to execute trades while taking unfair advantage of having unpublished information.

The regulator has issued stern strictures against Ghai to safeguard and protect the integrity of the market.

It includes freezing of all bank accounts of the three individuals and a bar on them deposing off any assets. Also, Rs 2.95 crore will remain impounded till a detailed investigation is complete in the matter.

Sebi studied the call data records with broker dealers to establish that Ghai was in control of trading accounts of his wife and mother.

The regulator has asked Ghai to refrain giving investment advice, either directly or indirectly. Sebi has also advised the news channel from informing the viewers of the shows hosted by Ghai about the prima facie violations of Sebi Prohibition of Fraudulent and Unfair Trade Practices (FUTP) Regulations.

“The viewers of the show trust the recommendation made in the show without realizing the scheme has been devised for their personal gains,” Sebi said in the order.

Experts said TV is an influential medium as a lot of investors base their investment and trading decisions based on the recommendations made on the shows.

Sebi has analysed stocks that were recommended on the show and the subsequent impact on their volumes and prices.

“Since the conduct of the aforementioned entities, prima facie appears to be unfair and not in the interest of investors and the securities market, necessary action has to be taken against them immediately, else it may lead to loss of investors’ trust in the securities market…It also has the effect of interfering with the development of the securities market, as investors tend to lose faith in the securities market in the face of such behaviour particularly by persons with large following. Hemant Ghai has approximately 116,000 followers on Twitter on the back of his popularity,” Sebi has said.

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