India Has a Bizarre Stock Market Scandal

Former head of largest exchange is accused of being a 'puppet' of a Himalayan yogi
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 14, 2022 8:06 AM CST
India Has a Bizarre Stock Market Scandal
In this 2008 photo, India's Finance Minister P. Chidambaram, center, rings the bell to inaugurate currency futures trading on the National Stock Exchange the NSE premises as Deputy Managing Director Chitra Ramkrishna, far left, looks on in Mumbai, India.   (AP Photo/Gautam Singh, File)

This might be the most unusual financial scandal in a while: The former chief of India's biggest stock exchange is accused of sharing sensitive financial data with a Himalayan yogi and relying on the guru for major decisions, reports the BBC. The Securities and Exchange Board of India leveled the accusations against Chitra Ramkrishna, who ran the National Stock Exchange from 2013 to 2016. "The sharing of financial and business plans of NSE ... is a glaring, if not unimaginable, act that could shake the very foundations of the stock exchange," says the SEBI in its report, per Reuters. The agency concluded she was "merely a puppet in his hands." And this isn't the only strange twist in the story.

Ramkrishna told regulators she had sought guidance from the guru for about 20 years, a span that includes her stint as head of the NSE, notes the AP. She never met with him but communicated via his email of Ramkrishna described the guru as a “spiritual force that could manifest itself anywhere it wanted and did not have any physical or locational co-ordinates" but “largely dwelt in the Himalayan ranges," according to the SEBI report. As the Times of India notes, the email handle is made up of the names Rig, Yajur, and Sama, a reference to sacred texts, or Vedas. Ramkrishna maintained that her sharing of information was "spiritual in nature" and not a breach of confidentiality.

Among other things, the yogi advised Ramkrishna to promote a subordinate named Anand Subramanian despite what the Times of India calls "scant experience." She also gave Subramanian “frequent, arbitrary, and disproportionate” raises, say regulators. Another bizarre twist might explain that: Quartz reports that a "forensic audit" by Ernst & Young, conducted at the request of SEBI, concluded that it was none other than Subramanian himself who was using the guru's email address. So was Subramanian the guru, or posing as one? If so, was Ramkrishna aware? The answers are unclear.

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While the Ernst & Young audit appears to suggest Subramanian and the "guru" were one and the same, the SEBI has a different take. It calls Subramanian an "accomplice" who was copied in on the emails between Ramkrishna and the separate "unknown person," per MoneyLife, which has much more background on the case. Either way, the SEBI has just fined Ramkrishna about $400,000 and banned her from working in the market for three years. Subramanian was asked to resign from the NSE in 2016, the same year Ramkrishna left her leadership post after citing personal reasons. (More India stories.)

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