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The man behind Sebi's makeover

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January 16, 2006 14:12 IST

If the capital market regulator is shrugging the image of a lax regulator, there is definitely one person behind the scene who is working hard to make the transition possible.

Complimenting the Securities and Exchange Board of India chairman M Damodaran in his catch-the-crooks endeavour is whole-time member G Anantaraman, a quintessential Tam Bram, and a retired chief commissioner of income-tax.

For someone who has spent two-thirds of his life investigating cases related to tax evasion with terrific success, catching crooks is second nature. In the one year he's been at Sebi, Anantaraman has passed some 100 orders.

But it is not the numbers that merit attention, but the quality of investigation that is visible in many of these orders. Kudos come from none other than the outgoing Presiding Officer of the Securities Appellate Tribunal Justice Kumar Rajaratnam (who determined the fate of the regulator in the umpteen court cases until last month) when he referred to Sebi's Yes Bank Order as a classic example of meticulously investigated and carefully worded order in a tete-a-tete with N Mahalakshmi.

Last week, again Anantaraman passed another order similar to the Yes Bank order relating to the IDFC IPO that only exemplifies the magnitude of the demat mess. This is only the second chapter of the multiple-account scam unearthed by the income-tax department in the early 1990s, again under the stewardship of Anantaraman.

Anantaraman relies on two mantras: one, get the facts in place and then the law can be taken care of. Two, targeted investigation that is less time-consuming and more action-oriented, instead of roving enquiries seeking to cast the net wide hoping that some misconduct will emerge. Both have worked well.

One major setback for Anantaraman and Sebi, however, has been the UBS case where the SAT set aside the regulator's order on grounds that the action against the foreign institution should have been taken under the provisions of FII regulations, instead of Section 11, which was to be used only in case of an emergency.

That is a matter of legality and interpretation that Anantaraman may have taken a bit lightly given the sanctity of his facts but something his legal wing needs to introspect.

Anantaraman has no particular hobbies except that he would browse through newspapers and magazines that interest him and read a lot of work-related stuff. Loves home-cooked food, listening to Carnatic music - T V Shankarnarayanan (from the older generation) and Sudha Ragunathan (from the contemporary musicians) are his favourite vocalists. Just nothing can distract him except Shanmukapriya raaga, in which he says he can get "lost".

N Mahalakshmi