FMC merges with Sebi: unprecedented merger of regulators
Marriage of Regulators: FMC to merged with Sebi
The amalgamation of Forward Markets Commission (FMC), the erstwhile commodities regulatory body, with capital markets watchdog Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi) came into effect today, marking the first major case of two regulators being merged.
Although, the merger of these two independent regulatory bodies was under discussion for long time, the move gathered pace, especially, after the commodity market was rocked by the outbreak of a multi-crore scam at National Spot Exchange (NSEL) unearthed two years back.
What led to the eventual convergence with the capital markets regulator Sebi.
1) History of the two regulatory bodies:
The Forward Markets Commission regulated commodities market since 1953, while the Securities and Exchange Board of India was set up in 1988 as a non-statutory body for regulating the securities markets and became an autonomous body in 1992 with full independent powers. Currently, India boasts of three national and six regional bourses for commodity futures in the country. The persisting global economic slowdown coupled with slackening growth in China fuelled a sharp fall in commodity prices over the past year or so. So much so that the consolidated turnover of all the exchanges put together fell to nearly Rs 60 lakh crore in 2014-15 from over Rs 101 lakh crore in the preceding financial year.
2) Issues stifling commodities markets:
FMC oversaw the commodities market for over 60 years, but it lacked powers which led to wild fluctuations and alleged irregularities remaining untamed in this market segment. Also, the commodities market faced challenges with respect to speculative activities and illegal activities like 'dabba trading' flourishing in this segment. Cautioning small investors, Sebi chairman UK Sinha had once said, "If you put your hard-earned money into this market, it may not be ultimately good for you. The commodities market is for those who are experts in this space. For non-experts, it is a risky area."
3) Talks of merger:
The merger talks between the two regulatory bodies was first mooted in 2003, and continued in next few years before the Rajan committee in 2009 reiterated consolidation of all financial sector regulators under one umbrella. In the events before the outbreak of NSEL crisis came to light, Justice BN Srikrishna-led FSLRC recommended unified regulation. But the fallout of NSEL prompted finance ministry to bring FMC under its fold in that same year. Finally, in his budget speech this year in February, finance minister Arun Jaitley announced the merger of FMC with Sebi.
4) What merger aims to achieve:
The merger is aimed at streamlining the regulations and curb wild speculations in the commodities market, while facilitating further growth there. “The merger will increase economies of scope and economies of scale for the government, exchanges, financial firms and stakeholders,” finance minister Arun Jaitley has been quoted as saying in reports. The minister also promised a more steps measures to further develop the market. He said there is no reason why the commodities market should not have options or index futures. He also said in future banks and foreign portfolio investors will also be allowed to participate in the markets.
5) Measures by Sebi:
Sebi has also created a separate Commodity Cell and has set up new departments for regulation of commodities derivatives market. Sebi has formed a Commodity Cell by posting its senior officials, while two internal departmental committees (one each in Integrated Surveillance Department and Market Intermediaries Regulation and Supervision Department) have been set up. The market regulator has also sought help from the Agriculture Ministry with regard to the data sources for the prices and to improve the methodology for determination of final settlement price. It will also give up to one year time for those in commodities market to adjust to new regulations.