A man stops his motorcycle in front the Securities & Exchange Board of India in Mumbai, India (Photographer: Adeel Halim/Bloomberg News)  

SEBI May Allow Side-Pocketing In Debt Mutual Funds

The Securities and Exchange Board of India is planning to allow mutual funds to undertake side-pocketing of debt and money market instruments in case of a credit shock while ensuring fair treatment to all unit holders.

The proposal is likely to be discussed by SEBI’s board at its meeting this week, officials said.

Side-pocketing is a mechanism to separate distressed, illiquid and hard-to-value assets from other more liquid assets in a portfolio. It prevents the distressed assets from damaging the returns generated from more liquid and better-performing assets.

It comes in the wake of a liquidity squeeze triggered by the debt payment defaults at Infrastructure Leasing & Financial Services Ltd. It has been noted that a credit event in even one issuer or group could lead to significant liquidity risk in the entire country, which in turn can lead to further volatility in the market.

Accordingly, a need has been felt to put in place a mechanism to deal with a situation that arises in a mutual fund scheme due to a credit event on a debt security in its portfolio, officials said, adding the Mutual Fund Advisory Committee has recommended in favour of side-pocketing.

Under the proposal, side-pocketing may be permitted for debt instruments in mutual fund schemes based on credit events at issuer level. It may be optional for mutual funds to exercise such mechanism. Further, activation of side-pocketing would be subject to trustee approval and there should be monitoring by trustees to ensure timely recovery of side-pocketed assets as per the proposal.

Also, there should be adequate disclosure to existing and prospective investors to enable informed decisions, the proposal noted.

Currently, in the absence of side-pocketing, in case of credit events, the existing investors potentially lose all the value. Any further recovery accrues to the investors in the scheme at the time of recovery. With side pockets, the investors who take the hit when the credit event happens, get the full upside of future recovery.