[Analysis] Understanding SEBI’s Direct Payout Rule | The End of Broker Pooling and Its Impact on Investors

  • Blog|Advisory|Company Law|
  • 3 Min Read
  • By Taxmann
  • |
  • Last Updated on 11 June, 2024

SEBI's Direct Payout Rule

The SEBI Direct Payout Mechanism mandates that Clearing Corporations (CCs) directly credit securities to clients' demat accounts, eliminating the practice of brokers pooling securities before distribution. This change, effective from October 14, 2024, aims to enhance investor protection, reduce misuse risks, improve transparency, and ensure client securities are kept separate from broker-owned securities.

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Mandatory Direct Payout Mechanism
  3. Benefits of the Direct Payout Mechanism
  4. Implementation Timeline
  5. Separate Demat Accounts for Funded Stocks under Margin Trading
  6. Handling of Internal Shortages and Broker Charges
  7. Conclusion

1. Introduction

The Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) has consistently prioritized investor protection and the smooth functioning of the securities market. On May 22, 2024, SEBI issued a Master Circular for Stock Brokers detailing procedures for handling clients’ securities. The primary goal is safeguarding clients’ securities and keeping them separate from brokers’ holdings to prevent misuse. While client funds handling was addressed, managing securities during payouts needed attention. Previously, brokers pooled securities received during payouts before crediting them to the respective client demat accounts, a practice fraught with risks and inefficiencies.

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2. Mandatory Direct Payout Mechanism

On June 5, 2024, SEBI issued a new circular (SEBI/HO/MIRSD/MIRSD-PoD1/P/CIR/2024/75) mandating the direct payout of securities to client demat accounts by Clearing Corporations (CCs). This change, previously voluntary, is now compulsory. The new rule abolishes the practice of brokers pooling securities before crediting them to client accounts. Additionally, CCs must provide a mechanism for Trading Members (TMs) or Clearing Members (CMs) to identify unpaid securities and funded stocks under the margin trading facility.

3. Benefits of the Direct Payout Mechanism

The previous practice of pooling securities posed several risks:

  • Risk of Misuse – Pooling client securities with broker-owned securities made it difficult to distinguish between the two.
  • Counterparty Risk – In case of a broker’s financial difficulties or insolvency, pooled securities might be jeopardized.
  • Lack of Transparency – Clients had limited visibility into the status of their securities, undermining trust in the brokerage system.

SEBI effectively addresses these risks by mandating direct payouts to client demat accounts. Direct payout ensures that client securities are directly credited to their accounts, eliminating the risk of misuse by brokers. This mechanism also gives clients direct visibility and control over their securities, enhancing trust in the brokerage system.

4. Implementation Timeline

The new circular will take effect on October 14, 2024. The Broker’s Industry Standards Forum is responsible for formulating implementation standards by August 5, 2024. Stock Exchanges, Depositories, and Clearing Corporations are directed to ensure compliance and communicate their implementation status to SEBI.

5. Separate Demat Accounts for Funded Stocks under Margin Trading

The circular also amends the ‘Master Circular for Stock Brokers.’ According to the new norms, funded stocks held by TMs or CMs under the margin trading facility must be held through a pledge. A separate demat account tagged ‘Client Securities under Margin Funding Account’ is mandatory. This account will contain only funded stocks for margin funding, with no other transactions allowed. These stocks will then be transferred to the client’s demat account, followed by an auto-pledge in favour of the ‘Client Securities under Margin Funding Account.’

6. Handling of Internal Shortages and Broker Charges

Provisions have been made to manage internal shortages due to the netting of positions between clients. TMs and CMs will address these through the Clearing Corporation’s specified auction process. Brokers are prohibited from levying additional charges on clients beyond those imposed by Clearing Corporations. Clients who have arrangements with SEBI-registered custodians for clearing and settlement are exempt from these provisions.

7. Conclusion

SEBI’s new rules mandating the direct transfer of securities to clients’ demat accounts mark a significant step toward protecting investors and enhancing transparency in the stock market. By eliminating pooling securities, SEBI reduces risks such as mixing securities, broker financial instability, and lack of clear client information. This change underscores SEBI’s commitment to maintaining safe and efficient financial markets in India. Brokers must adhere to these new rules by October 14, 2024, to safeguard investors’ interests amidst these changes.

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