Market regulator Sebi cracks down on Telegram tips operators

telegram, sebi, Market regulator, capital markets, operations

Mumbai: The Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi) has cracked down on market operators in Gujarat for allegedly manipulating stocks through social media, said two people familiar with the development. Officials of the capital markets regulator’s surveillance department carried out ‘search and seizure’ operations on the premises of three entities in Ahmedabad and Mehsana on Wednesday, they said.

These operators have been accused of manipulating stocks through mobile messaging service Telegram channels with a large subscriber base. The suspected entities would first buy shares and then post messages in the Telegram channel recommending subscribers to buy the same shares. Later on, these entities would square off their positions, said one of the persons quoted above.

“These entities have made a killing by simply cheating people. Every transaction they have made lakhs of profit,” said one of the two people in the know.

Sebi officials involved with the investigation have seized the mobile devices of these entities. A probe revealed messages recommending shares in which they were dealing. Investigation is still going on and these operators involved are being questioned, the person said.

Telegram channels and Whatsapp groups have been the best source of trading tips for stocks, derivatives and cryptos as hordes of first-time investors have begun punting amid the record-breaking stock market rally. Of late, Telegram channels have been more popular because the application’s features allow a larger subscriber base. Most of these Telegram channels provide free tips. Their popularity is based on the success rate of the tips and the number of subscribers.

The strategy used by the operators, who are under Sebi’s investigation, is the popular BTST, or Buy Today Sell Tomorrow, trades. In these trades, a trader sells the shares a day after buying.

With market operators increasingly using social media to manipulate stocks, Sebi is sharpening its focus on looking into the wrongdoings through these avenues.

In 2013, the regulator was empowered to conduct search at any premises where incriminating documents, including electronic and digital devices, are lying and seize such documents and devices from any person associated with the securities market for the purpose of investigation.

Sebi had carried out similar search and seizure operations in the Whatsapp leak case in 2017. The challenge the regulator faced at the time was the originator of the message was not known.

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