The market regulator has fined Franklin Templeton India’s trustee, chief executive and officials, including fund mangers, on Monday for violating rules while overseeing credit funds that unexpectedly shut down last year. The Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) said chief executive Sanjay Sapre failed to address the risk of illiquid underlying portfolios, while fund managers did not ensure funds were invested in the best interest of unitholders.
Sebi fined the fund manager’s trustee and eight Franklin India officials, including Sapre, a total of Rs 150 million ($2 million) – only a week after fining the investment giant Rs 50 million for lapses and violations related to the funds. The trustee – Franklin Templeton Trustee Services – said in a statement to Reuters that it disagreed with SEBI’s findings and intended to appeal.
In a separate statement, Franklin Templeton said its employees acted “in compliance with regulations and in the best interest of unitholders”. Franklin has faced regulatory investigations and court battles since April 2020 when it unexpectedly wound up six credit funds in India with assets of close to $4 billion, citing a lack of liquidity amid the coronavirus pandemic. The funds had large exposures to higher-yielding, lower-rated credit securities.
Last week, the regulator also banned Franklin Templeton, one of India’s most prominent fixed-income fund houses, from launching any new debt schemes for two years after an investigation into the fund closures. Commenting on the trustee, SEBI said in its 151-page order that it “failed to render at all times high standards of service, exercise due diligence, ensure proper care and exercise independent professional judgment”. In an email to investors on Wednesday, Franklin said it continues to manage more than Rs 610 billion ($8 billion) for more than two million investors in India and it was committed to serving Indian investors.