Saturday, January 10, 2009

India's Madoff - Made off with the millions - but how???

Satyam is a rude shock. In ways more than one. There are some key questions everyone wants to ask. Some key points that Indians need to ponder. This whole fiasco can be described in a few short stages. Satyam, a listed IT company wanted to acquire huge stake in Maytas, which is owned by the Satyam Chairman's sons, without so much as a shareholder consent. After investors raise hue and cry, the deal is called off, but an even bigger can of worms is opened, after a startling confessional by Mr Raju, about massive fraud in their books, causes India's fourth largest IT major to collapse like a pack of cards.

The key points to ponder here are first, how did seemingly independent directors approve unanimously the Satyam - Maytas deal? Did everybody forget that every shareholder whether he holds a million shares or just one share, is still an integral part of the investing body and has a right therefore, to know what is happening to his money? Second- what was the role of PWC? It is indeed one of the big 4 and it has a massive reputation and an even bigger credibility to live up to. Was it condoning the massive fraud? If not, then how did Satyam (whoever may be involved - CEO or CFO or Chairman or anybody) cook up such a fairy tale balance sheet. And manage to pull it off for not one or two years but 10 years??? Most importantly, how did auditors find evidences for the non-existant Rs. 5040 CRORES and the non-existent accrued interest of Rs 376 crores and the non-existant debt of Rs 490 crores????? And, how did they not find evidences for a liability of Rs.1230 crores?

We can consider this scam to be the worst in years, almost to the scale of the Madoff swindle! And, somethings need to be addressed and acted upon very fast. First, we would need to understand how such dubious figures were concocted. ICAI would need to rework the accounting rules to prevent frauds of this scale. Extreme freedom to capitalism leads to greed, as it happened in the US in the run up to the credit crisis, and extreme regulation will lead to a contrived economy like that of China or erstwhile USSR. Clearly self - regulation with independent directors need not necessarily imply a clear, transparently governed corporate entity. A certain degree of government interference is needed. In the case of Satyam, the FIIs dumped shares to express disapproval, and hence the Satyam-Maytas deal fell through. But is the retail investor and indeed the FII as concerned in case of all other listed firms? Case in point Sterlite's attempt, in September 2008, to transfer the high-quality aluminum business and merchant power to Malco, in return for the low-quality, high cost, copper Konkola mines, going through without shareholder approval. Does that mean that only Satyam lost out for not having been smart enough???? Morbid indeed. And finally, what does this bode for Indian IT? And indeed for India, since although this scam is compared to Enron in US, its impact will be far more debilitating to India than Enron was for the US, since IT is India's primary key to growth and economic success.

Here is my summary of the whole Satyam story so far - Satyam Saga.

1 comment:

Mohit Handa said...

SATYAM....means TRUE....

So what does MAYTAS mean illustratively ?

IT MEANS FALSE ...yyy....