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Posted February 18, 2023 08:59 AM

RBI Yes Bank move SC over HC ruling on bond write-off

MUMBAI : The Reserve Bank of India and Yes Bank Ltd filed separate appeals in the Supreme Court on Monday to challenge the Bombay High Court’s ruling on 20 January that overturned the private lender’s decision to write off ₹8,415 crore worth of additional tier-1 (AT-1) bonds as part of a restructuring plan.

In its petition before the apex court, RBI said that the Basel-III Master Circular mandates that such AT-1 bonds must be written off before public funds are injected into the reconstructed bank (Yes Bank). By setting aside the master circular and reviving the AT-1 Bonds, this order will adversely impact the rest of Yes Bank’s reconstruction scheme besides diluting the equity infused by State Bank of India, RBI said.

The central bank argued in its challenge that “... the impugned order will be prejudicial to the interests of over 2 lakh public depositors for whose benefit the entire exercise of reconstruction has been undertaken".

It said that the high court order was an interference in the economic policy of the RBI and noted that the legal position that courts should refrain from interfering in decisions about economic policy and legislation has been already established by the top court.

“It is not the function of the courts to sit in judgment over matters of economic policy and it must necessarily be left to the expert bodies. The setting aside of the central bank’s letter was in contravention of the law already settled by the top court," the petition said.

Moreover, the bank petitioned that Yes Bank would have never been revived unless SBI agreed to invest public sector money into the private bank.

A copy of RBI’s petition was seen by Mint. RBI, along with Yes Bank, filed their appeals on Saturday. Mint couldn’t access Yes Bank’s petition. Calls and messages to a spokesperson for Yes Bank remained unanswered.

Mint first reported on 22 January that RBI was likely to appeal the high court ruling that quashed the regulator’s and Yes Bank’s decision to write-off the AT1 bonds. AT-1 bonds are unsecured or perpetual bonds with no maturity date and is used by banks to increase their equity base and comply with Basel –III norms.

As part of Yes Bank’s restructuring scheme in March 2020, RBI along with the Yes Bank administrator decided to write-off the AT1 bonds. Consequently, aggrieved by the decision, a batch of petitions were filed by the bondholders, including financial institutions and retail investors.

A key factor in SBI’s decision to infuse equity are the provisions of the master circular, as per which the loss absorbent AT1 bonds were to be written off before fresh equity infusion so that there would be no dilution of SBI’s capital, RBI said, adding that the master circular’s instructions that the bonds would be written off before further infusion of equity in order to prevent dilution of SBI’s funds had a crucial role in the state-run lender’s decision to restructure Yes Bank.

In March 2020, the Yes Bank board was superseded by RBI, and Prashant Kumar was appointed as the administrator. RBI had said the decision was taken mainly due to the bank’s poor financial situation, which was mostly caused by its failure to obtain new capital.

A petition was filed by the Yes Bank AT1 Bond Holders Association for their claims worth ₹160 crore. It filed a writ petition challenging the legality and validity of RBI’s decision to write off AT-1 bonds sold by Yes Bank to ineligible investors. In its petition before the high court, the association had said “our members are individual retail investors most of whom are above 60 years of age, who have been wrongfully lured to invest in AT1 bonds issued by Yes Bank which were meant for allotment only to institutional investors and corporate bodies for which they were ineligible."

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