Supreme Court upholds validity of e-voting for winding up of six Franklin schemes

Supreme Court upholds validity of e-voting for winding up of six Franklin schemes

The Supreme Court on Friday upheld the validity of e-voting process for winding up of six mutual fund schemes of Franklin Templeton, and said disbursal of funds to unit holders will continue.

A bench of justices S A Nazeer and Sanjiv Khanna, while rejecting the opposition by some unit holders to the e-voting process, said disbursal of funds has to be done as per the earlier order of the apex court.

The top court had on February 2 ordered that Rs 9,122 crore be disbursed within three weeks to the unit holders of Franklin Templeton’s six mutual fund schemes which are proposed to be wound up.

It had said that disbursal of money would be done in proportion to unit holders’ interest in the assets.

Earlier, the apex court had asked the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) to appoint an observer for overseeing the e-voting process.

The e-voting with regard to the winding up Franklin Templeton’s six mutual fund schemes had taken place in the last week of December and it has been approved by a majority of unit holders.

The apex court had on February 2 entrusted the State Bank of India (SBI) Mutual Fund to disburse the money as all the lawyers gave consent to the court’s order.

It had granted liberty to the litigating parties to approach the court in case of any difficulty in the disbursal of money to unit holders.

The top court on January 25 had said it would first deal with the issues related to objection to the e-voting process for winding up of the six mutual fund schemes and distribution of money to the unit holders.

Prior to this, it had granted three days for filing of objections to the e-voting.

“SEBI shall appoint an observer regarding the e-voting of unit holders which is scheduled between December 26 and December 29, 2020. The result of the e-voting would not be announced and would be produced before us in a sealed cover along with the report of the observer appointed by the SEBI”, the top court had said in its order passed earlier.

It had said that SEBI would also file a copy of the final Forensic Audit Report before the court in a sealed cover.

The apex court is hearing an appeal filed by Franklin Templeton against the high court’s order which stopped the fund house from winding up its debt fund schemes without prior consent of the investors.

On December 7, 2020, Franklin Templeton Mutual Fund had said it has sought consent of the unit holders for the orderly winding up of the six fixed income schemes.

On December 3 last year, the apex court had asked Franklin Templeton Mutual Fund to initiate steps within one week for calling a meeting of unit holders to seek their consent for closure of six mutual fund schemes.

The top court had observed that the issue is big and people wanted a refund.

The Karnataka High Court had earlier said that decision of Franklin Templeton Trustee Services Private Limited to wind up six schemes cannot be implemented unless the consent of the unit holders is obtained.

The six schemes are Franklin India Low Duration Fund, Franklin India Ultra Short Bond Fund, Franklin India Short Term Income Plan, Franklin India Credit Risk Fund, Franklin India Dynamic Accrual Fund and Franklin India Income Opportunities Fund.

Franklin Templeton MF closed these six debt mutual fund schemes on April 23, citing redemption pressure and lack of liquidity in the bond market.

Till November 27, 2020 the six schemes received total cash flows of Rs 11,576 crore from maturities, pre-payments and coupon payments since April 24 last year.

The cash available stands at Rs 7,226 crore as of November 27, 2020 for the four cash positive schemes, subject to fund running expenses.

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