The UK finance regulator fined Dubai-based investor Rameshkumar Goenka $9.6m for market abuse, its largest-ever fine against an individual.
Goenka, 66, manipulated the closing price of Reliance Industries securities on the London Stock Exchange by executing a high volume of orders in the final seconds of trading to inflate the payout on a structured product tied to the closing price, the UK Financial Services Authority said in a statement Wednesday.
"Goenka's structured product was an investment that would have made him a considerable profit had it been successful for him,” said Tracey McDermott, the acting director of enforcement for the FSA.
“The impact of such behavior goes far beyond one counterparty,” said Tracey McDermott, the acting director of enforcement for the FSA. “Market confidence will suffer if participants cannot be satisfied that the price of quoted securities reflects the proper interplay of supply and demand.”
The fine includes a penalty of around $6.5m and restitution to reimburse the bank $3.1m, which overpaid him as a result on the structured product. Goenka received a 30 percent discount for settling the case, the FSA said. Had he not settled early, the fine would have been $12.4m.
Goenka’s lawyer, Stephen Gentle, didn’t immediately respond to a call seeking comment.
The regulator’s previous highest fine was against Simon Eagle, the former head of Fundamental-E Investments and brokerage SP Bell. He was fined £2.8m ($4.5m) in May 2010 over a share-ramping scheme.
The fine levied against Goenka was high because of his “extensive experience as an investor,” that his action was pre-planned and intentional, and because he intended to take the same action in relation to another structured product, the FSA said.
Goenka, an Indian national who has lived in Dubai for the past 12 years, had bought two structured products in 2007 for $10m each. Both related to a basket of global depository receipts, one representing shares in the Russian companies Gazprom, Lukoil and Surgutneftegaz Oil Co, and the other to the Indian companies Reliance, ICICI Bank and HDFC Bank, according to the regulator.
The final payout depended on the closing price of the worst-performing of the three different GDRs on their maturity date. Reliance is India’s biggest company by market value and led by India’s richest man, Mukesh Ambani.
Goenka had planned to manipulate the price of Gazprom securities on the LSE to affect the payout on the Russian companies-linked structured product, which matured in April last year, the FSA said. The plan was scuttled when Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a merger between Gazprom and the gas company NAK Naftogaz Ukrainy, causing the price of the securities to fall too far to be manipulated, the agency said.
“Mr. Goenka’s behavior in relation to Gazprom is further evidence that the Reliance market manipulation was deliberate and carefully planned,” the FSA said.