The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) under the new regime had last week sent letters to over 50 investors, a move which was described as laying to rest the fear psychosis created by the previous administration.
Investors selected for the issuance of letters were those who either had been summoned or previously written to by the SEC as part of investigations.
The brief letter signed by Acting DG Prof. Hareendra Dissabandara included a thank you note to concerned investors for providing information and had assured that already furnished information appear to have fulfilled the requirement to facilitate the on-going investigations at the SEC.
Investors were also told that if the SEC needs further information, it will revert.
The idea behind the move is to drive away the fear among those who were previously written to or summoned and that the original SEC action was part of preliminary information gathering.
The number of letters sent also dismisses the exaggerated version that a much larger base of investors is being either questioned or investigated by the SEC.
There had been reports that over 200 letters were sent by the SEC in the recent past implying that an equal number is being investigated for various malpractices. The 200 figure is likely to include seeking information from listed companies and others.
Among the 50 included individual investors and corporates and the target group were those who were summoned or written to between late 2011 and mid-this year.
The change in the tone of some of the letters sent in recent past had been flagged off by some investors and brokers as instilling fear among new or ordinary investors especially those who in their opinion weren’t engaged in suspected malpractices.
This matter even came up at President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s forum with capital market stakeholders on 20 July as it was alleged that SEC’s ‘fearsome’ letters had driven many out of the market.
As exclusively reported by the Daily FT in June, some of those who had previously received summons and proved innocent later on claimed that the fresh notice was morally damaging.
One of the notices of summons issued by SEC concluded by warning those under investigation that “failure to appear before the Commission, refusal to answer any question, refusal to produce any book or document in possession or control when required or knowingly giving false answer shall render” the person to being found “guilty of an offence in terms of Section 46A (4) of the SEC Act and shall on conviction after summary trial before a Magistrate render liable to a term of imprisonment of either description not exceeding five years or to a fine not exceeding one million rupees or both such imprisonment and fine.”
SEC’s response at that time was that it was the standard format.
The decision to send letters was first communicated by the SEC during the new regime’s first consultation with brokers on 14 September.
Despite the latest action by the SEC, sources said persons and trades warranting investigations based on concrete evidence and expert opinion had been on-going and will continue.