At least two members of the experts’ panel appointed by the Supreme Court in March in the wake of the Hindenburg Research report should have opted out because of conflicts of interest arising from their close links with the Adani group, a petitioner in the case has said.
Anamika Jaiswal, who is represented by lawyer and civil liberties activist Prashant Bhushan, has accused former State Bank of India chairman O.P Bhatt and advocate Somashekhar Sundaresan of failing to report their ties with the Adani group as well as opting out of the panel in order to ensure the impartiality of its report.
The experts’ panel had been asked to investigate whether there had been any regulatory failure on the part of Sebi to probe charges against the Adani group for violation of securities market law.
It was also asked to examine the causal factors that precipitated the market meltdown after the Hindenburg report which eventually wrung $120 billion worth of paper value from Adani group stocks.
“The petitioner is filing the instant application for directions in light of recent revelations about conflict of interest of certain members of the expert committee,” Jaiswal’s petition said.
The charge against Bhatt is that he is the chairman of Greenko, a renewable energy company, which is working “in a close partnership to provide energy to Adani group’s facilities in India".
Greenko had struck a deal to supply 1GW of power to “Adani group’s proposed industrial complex, making it one of its kind Green industrial complex in the world", the petition said, quoting a media release issued in March 2022.
“The partnership came to be entered right before an energy deal in Davos between the Andhra Pradesh government and three energy companies, including Greenko and Adani,” the petitioner said.
The petitioner said Sundaresan had “been a lawyer representing Adani before various forums, including the Sebi board”.
Jaiswal appended what the petitioner said was an order issued by Sebi whole-time member T.C. Nair in May 2007, which showed that Sundaresan had represented Adani Exports and its entities in a case before the market regulator.
In its report submitted to the Supreme Court in early May, the experts’ panel had said there was no evidence of regulatory failure on the part of Sebi.
It added that frequent changes in securities laws since 2018 made it difficult to conclude that the Adani group had violated regulations by bringing the minimum public shareholding in group companies below a mandated 25 per cent threshold.
The panel also said that there was no evidence that the group had deliberately concealed the identity of the real owners of the funds that were funnelled into the conglomerate through 13 “opaque” entities residing in various tax havens.
The committee — which submitted its report to the apex court on May 8 — said the accusation of stock price manipulation could not be established either.