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SEBI proposes regulatory framework for index providers

The Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) has recently, on 28th December 2022, proposed a regulatory framework for index providers who offer indices for use in India. As per the consultation paper, the regulatory framework carries the objective of furthering transparency and accountability in governance and administration of the financial benchmarks / indices in the Indian securities market.

The regulatory framework is based on the recommendations of the Secondary Market Advisory Committee (SMAC) and has the following salient features:

  • The framework shall adhere to International Organization of Securities Commissions (IOSCO) principles. The index provider shall be assessed by independent external auditors to evaluate adherence to the IOSCO principles.

  • Registration of the index provider with SEBI is mandated in case the users of the index are located in India. However, Benchmark Administrators providing significant benchmarks notified by the RBI under Financial Benchmark (Reserve Bank) Directions, 2019 shall be excluded from registration.

  • Indices based on unregulated asset classes (e.g., crypto assets) shall be outside the purview of the regulatory framework.

  • The index provider shall be a legal entity incorporated under the Companies Act in the country of origin. This means that individuals or non-legal-entities shall be ineligible for the registration and hence they would not be able to provision indices.

  • Minimum net worth requirement for index providers is proposed at Rs. 25 crores.

  • Minimum track record of index administration is proposed at 5 years. Alternatively, the index provider could have at least two persons in employment each having minimum 5 years of such experience.

  • There shall be an Oversight Committee constituted by the index provider for reviewing index design.

  • The index providers shall have policies and procedures in place to manage conflicts of interest and to protect the integrity and independence of various functions.

  • In case the index provider is engaged in some other activities also, then the index benchmark determination process shall be completely ring-fenced to prevent leakage of sensitive information.

  • The quality of indices shall be maintained by the index provider and due-diligence on data submitters shall be performed. A code of conduct for data submitters shall be put in place.

  • The methodology for index calculation shall be made publicly available by the index provider.

  • Relevant documents and audit trails shall be made readily available to SEBI. In case SEBI has any adverse findings then appropriate action shall be taken against the index provider under the SEBI Act, 1992, and SEBI (Intermediary) Regulations, 2008.

  • The index provider shall have a grievance redressal mechanism put in place including an online facility for arbitration.

Presently, the proposed regulatory framework is being considered against public representations and comments by the SEBI, the last date for which is 27th January, 2023, after which the framework would be introduced in its final form.

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