September 09, 2009

life in financial markets: why not ask for a level playing field in this as well?

One often hears/reads/sees a corporate CEO or an industrialist talking of level playing field. Depending on what it pertains to, such a thing can be considered valid or not. I think barring a very few genuine cases most of them are frivolous and unfair. But on the surface they look very apt and fair. Dig a little deeper and you realise the dirty game being played.

Anyway, I was reading this newsreport on how the fraud-affected and in-prison Satyam Computer's former chief, Ramalinga Raju, is receiving excessive soft treatment. Read the entire text of the newsreport below. Now, I was wondering, whether corporate India would also seek a level playing field in the treatement given to corporate CEOs when they land in prison due to fraud. Would it not be fair for corporate India to seek that Satyam's Raju be treated like any other undertrial-prisoner in the country?

Even hardened criminals-cum-politicians receive the kind of treatment that Satyam's former chief is receiving now. When such politicians are from states such as Bihar, Jharkhand and Uttar Pradesh, many in corporate India (and I have personally experienced this) mock, and make derogatory remarks on, the favoritism accorded to these states' politicans. But, pray, tell me, what is the difference between a powerful criminal in such a state and Satyam's Raju?

Coming to the status of the cases against Satyam's former bosses, I am not surprised by the slow pace of investigations to arrive at a final conclusion in the Satyam fraud case that involved, among other things, artificially jacking up profits and siphoning off company funds for personal benefit by the company bosses. But I am apalled by the fact that even Sebi, under the chairmanship of a supposedly-tough C.B.Bhave, has been extremely slow to bring to justice the Satyam offenders under the wide ranging powers available to Sebi under the various regulations and Acts.

When Bhave was the chief of NSDL (National Securities Depository) his company was unfairly targeted by former Sebi chief, Damodaran, during the IPO scam blowout. While merchant bankers (lead managers to the IPOs) were being allowed to go scot free, Damodaran was going after the two depositories. But I did notice at that time that NSDL, under Bhave, never took any action against Karvy Stock Broking that was a DP in NSDL and which had opened over 40,000 fake demat accounts. NSDL, under its various rules and regulations, could have levied a hefty penalty on Karvy. But it never did. Of course, neither did CDSL penalise its DPs that were involved in the scam. But I expected differently from Bhave and NSDL.

Now, here is the twist. Karvy's headquarters are in Hyderabad in Andhra Pradesh. So is Satyam Computer's. Though the matters are serious I can not help but find some humour in the fact that Hyderabadis are exposing chinks in Bhave's strengths.

Here, then is the newsreport. Its shocking: Raju is 'raja' in hospitalTNN 9 September 2009, 02:02am IST
HYDERABAD: If Ramalinga Raju was the rare undertrial playing badminton in Chanchalguda prison, he now holds the
distinction of being the first prisoner to enjoy the comforts of the only VIP room in the NIMS ICCU where he is currently recuperating.
The former Satyam boss was admitted to NIMS after he complained of chest pain on Monday evening. Medical reports
stated that he was suffering from Hepatitis C and hypertension.
While the other patients' beds are divided by curtains, Raju has a separate room to himself which staffers refer to
as the 'VIP section'. The room has an attached bathroom with round the clock attention from doctors.
With his wife Nandini Raju on his side along with a few other family members since he was admitted to the hospital
on Monday night, it appears that the Raju family is having a reunion of sorts. Raju's elder son, Teja Raju, visited
his father on Monday night. There are five policemen outside his room keeping a vigil.
Raju's aides were seen hanging around the ICCU on Tuesday and even entering to meet him with the help of hospital
staff. The medical superintendent N Satyanarayana mentioned during a brief press briefing that Raju had the company
of his personal assistant in the ICCU.
At about 1.15 pm a Raju aide was seen entering the ward with two oversized basket like bags carrying food, clothes
and other items. The aide was accompanied with Raju’s counsel S Bharath Kumar’s junior who was taking in some
documents inside for Raju.
"He (Bharath Kumar) wanted Raju to go through these documents," the lawyer said. Sources said that his father-in-law
visited Raju in the morning, apart from the other visitors, later in the day, on Tuesday.
The hospital authorities even blocked an entrance which leads to the in-patient ward of the hospital on Tuesday. At
the other entry points, the security guards kept a close watch ensuring that nobody went inside without a pass, as
against the normal days when they are usually lax. Those who did not have a pass, were denied entry.

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