India top court orders probe into allegations against Adani Group


Court asks market regulator to investigate possible lapses in securities law or other regulatory disclosures by Gautam Adani-led group.

India’s top court has asked the market regulator to investigate any possible lapses in securities law or other regulatory disclosures by the Adani Group which has been accused of business malpractice by a United States-based short seller.

The Supreme Court on Thursday also ordered the formation of an investor protection panel amid sharp falls in the Adani Group’s shares.

Indian markets regulator SEBI has been investigating a critical January 24 report by Hindenburg Research that alleged the Adani Group improperly used offshore tax havens and manipulated stocks. The conglomerate has denied doing so.

SEBI had previously told the court it was investigating the allegations made in the Hindenburg report and market activity immediately preceding and following its publication.

The Supreme Court asked SEBI to check “whether there has been a failure to disclose transactions with related parties” and “whether there was any manipulation of stock prices in contravention of existing laws”.

The ruling was announced by a three-judge bench, headed by Chief Justice of India D Y Chandrachud, which heard several public-interest litigations on losses investors suffered due to the stock market rout triggered by the Hindenburg report.

Seven listed companies of the Adani Group have lost about $135bn in value since the report was published.

Billionaire Gautam Adani welcomed the Supreme Court order. “It will bring finality in a time bound manner. Truth will prevail,” he said in a post on Twitter.

Hindenburg Research said in its report it had identified numerous “undisclosed related party transactions” by both listed and private Adani companies, allegedly in violation of Indian disclosure laws.

In its rebuttal, Adani said “all related party transactions are at arm’s length, properly disclosed and reviewed/audited by statutory independent auditors”.

The court also formed an expert panel to be headed by a retired Supreme Court judge to examine how investor protection mechanisms can be strengthened.

The six-member panel, which is due to report back within two months, will include former chairman of the State Bank of India O P Bhatt and prominent banker K V Kamath.

It has been asked “to provide an overall assessment of the situation”, Chandrachud said.

Adani has sought to calm investors and this week held a fixed-income roadshow in Singapore and Hong Kong. The group, according to sources, has told creditors it has secured a $3bn loan from a sovereign wealth fund.

Apart from investigating allegations against Adani, the expert committee is to suggest measures to improve regulatory oversight and protections for investors.

Adani Enterprises last month cancelled a share offering meant to raise $2.5bn after Hindenburg issued its report and its share price plummeted.

Opposition parties blocked parliamentary proceedings last month demanding a probe into the business dealings of Gautam Adani, who is said to enjoy close ties with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.