SEBI on Thursday barred 10 entities, including guest experts, appearing on a business news channel from the securities market and directed seizure of unlawful gains of Rs 7.41 crore made by them through alleged stock manipulation.
In its probe, the markets regulator found that few guest experts shared advance information pertaining to recommendations to be made by them with certain entities called "profit makers" before the broadcast of the recommendations on Zee Business news channel.
After receiving the information, profit makers took position in the contract and reversed the position or squared off the position after the broadcast of the recommendation on Zee Business.
In its interim order, SEBI noted profit makers, Nirmal Kumar Soni, Partha Sarathi Dhar, SAAR Commodities, Manan Sharecom and Kanhya Trading Company, made profit by executing trades which were allegedly executed based on advance information of stock recommendations given by guest experts Kiran Jadhav, Ashish Kelkar, Himanshu Gupta, Mudit Goyal and Simi Bhaumik.
The entities made unlawful gains to the tune of Rs 7.41 crore from such trades and the profit was shared with guest experts as per prior understanding, SEBI noted.
Accordingly, all the entities are jointly and severally liable for impounding of the proceeds.
"The facts of this case demonstrates clear scheme of manipulation to harm the interest of investors by misguiding them to take position in securities so that profit makers could make profit at the cost of such investors," Sebi said in its 127-page order.
Unlawful gains made by these profit makers come, directly or indirectly, from the pockets of innocent investors who follow the advice of guest experts unaware of the fraudulent scheme, it added.
Further, Sebi restrained all the 10 entities "from buying, selling or dealing in securities, either directly or indirectly, in any manner whatsoever until further orders".
Also, the regulator has asked Zee Media Corporation to preserve and maintain all records, documents video records, along with their content related to the guest experts and concerned shows till the final order is passed.
The present proceedings are emerging from an investigation conducted by Sebi to examine high correlation between the trading activities of certain entities and the stock recommendations given by guest experts featuring in different shows broadcasted on the television channel Zee Business during the period starting from February 1, 2022 and ending with December 31, 2022.
Considering the prima facie pattern of correlation of trades of suspect entities with recommendations made by guest experts on Zee Business, further investigation was undertaken in order to gather evidence of possible violation of Sebi rules.
Subsequently,a search and seizure operation was carried out on the premises of suspect entities after obtaining a Court order.
During the operation, certain electronic devices were seized and statements were recorded under oath.