The Crash that Shook the Nation
The 176-point1 Sensex2 crash on March 1, 2001 came as a major shock for the Government of India, the stock markets and the investors alike. More so, as
the Union budget tabled a day earlier had been acclaimed for its growth initiatives and had prompted a 177-point increase in the Sensex. This sudden crash in the stock markets prompted the Securities Exchange Board of India (SEBI) to launch immediate investigations into the volatility of stock markets. SEBI also decided to inspect the books of several brokers who were suspected of triggering the crash.
Meanwhile, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) ordered some banks to furnish data related to their capital market exposure. This was after media reports appeared regarding a private sector bank3 having exceeded its prudential norms of capital exposure, thereby contributing to the stock market volatility. The panic run on the bourses continued and the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE) President Anand Rathi's (Rathi) resignation added to the downfall. Rathi had to resign following allegations that he had used some privileged information, which contributed to the crash. The scam shook the investor's confidence in the overall functioning of the stock markets. By the end of March 2001, at least eight people were reported to have committed suicide and hundreds of investors were driven to the brink of bankruptcy.
A change of Re. 1 in the price of a share when one speaks of a share rising or falling by so many points. In stock market indices, however, a point is one unit of the composite weighted average on market capitalization of rupee values. 2 A stock market index indicating weighted average of 30 scripts, also known as the BSE Sensitive Index. The daily closing figure of this index broadly reflects the performance of the capital markets. 3 It was alleged that Global Trust Bank exceeded its Capital market exposure.
The scam opened up the debate over banks funding capital market operations and lending funds against collateral security. It also raised questions about the validity of dual control of co-operative banks4. (Analysts pointed out that RBI was inspecting the accounts once in two years, which created ample scope for violation of rules.) The first arrest in the scam was of the noted bull5, Ketan Parekh (KP), on March 30, 2001, by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). Soon, reports abounded as to how KP had single handedly caused one of the biggest scams in the history of Indian financial markets. He was charged with defrauding Bank of India (BoI) of about $30 million among other charges. KP's arrest was followed by yet another panic run on the bourses and the Sensex fell by 147 points. By this time, the scam had become the 'talk of the nation,' with intensive media coverage and unprecedented public outcry.
The Man Who Triggered the Crash
KP was a chartered accountant by profession and used to manage a family business, NH Securities started by his father. Known for maintaining a low profile, KP's only dubious claim to fame was in 1992, when he was accused in the stock exchange scam6. He was known as the 'Bombay Bull' and had connections with 4
Co-operative banks are under the dual control of RBI and the Registrar of Co-operative Societies. The RBI regulates banking functions while the registrar looks after the managerial and administrative functions. 5 An investor who expects share prices to go up and hence buys them.
When the interest rates were freed in mid-1989, it made the price of both bonds and money more volatile, and increased the link between the securities and money markets. With price volatility and increased volumes, securities broking became a profitable activity. The rising volumes were funded by banks through bank receipts (BR is a document issued by a bank acknowledging that it has sold certain government securities to a party and received payment). The scam came to light...