The former head of India’s National Stock Exchange (NSE), the country’s largest, shared confidential information with her yoga guru for years, seeking his advice when making performance decisions, a probe by India’s market regulator the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) has found.
The regulator broke the news on Sunday, ahead of NSE’s public listing expected later this year. The matter regarding the yogi adviser surfaced during SEBI’s probe of the exchange following allegations that officials had provided some traders with unfair access through colocation servers.
After a three-year investigation, in 2019 SEBI fined the NSE over $90 million for violating contract rules and banned it from raising money on securities markets for six months.
During the investigation, however, SEBI also found that the NSE’s former CEO Chitra Ramkrishna, who quit the exchange in 2016 citing “personal reasons,” shared insider information in emails to an unknown person in the Himalayas. When questioned on the matter, Ramkrishna said the person was a “spiritual force” she consulted for some 20 years. The regulator stated that it was “absurd” for Ramkrishna to share the NSE’s sensitive information with an outsider.
“The sharing of financial and business plans of NSE... is a glaring, if not unimaginable, act that could shake the very foundations of the stock exchange,” SEBI said in an order that imposed fines on Ramkrishna, the exchange and several other top former executives. The information Ramkrishna shared included the NSE’s financial projections, dividend pay-out ratios, business plans, and board agenda. The ‘yogi’ was also found to have influenced the appointment of a mid-level executive directly as an adviser to Ramkrishna with a salary higher than most senior NSE officials while having next to no market experience and inadequate documentation.
According to SEBI’s findings, Ramkrishna’s Himalayan guru was effectively running the exchange for years, while the CEO was “merely a puppet in his hands.” Also, SEBI found that the exchange’s board was aware of Ramkrishna’s guru adviser, but chose to “keep the matter under wraps.”
The regulator has fined NSE 20 million rupees ($270,000) and barred the exchange from launching any new products for six months. It also imposed a 30 million rupees ($400,000) fine on Ramkrishna and banned her from any SEBI-registered intermediary work for three years.
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