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Cyril Amarchand scoops ex-SEBI chief UK Sinha to spearhead governance practice: ’Very profitable’, ‘Wachtell-like', ‘think tank', new 'centrepiece' of firm [UPDATE-1]

Ex-SEBI boss UK Sinha joins CAM for deeper push into corporate governance work
Ex-SEBI boss UK Sinha joins CAM for deeper push into corporate governance work

Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas CAM has hired UK Sinha, former Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) chief of 6 years, as a senior advisor to lead its newly-established Corporate Governance Center (CGC).

While at SEBI until early 2017, Sinha had been one of the few chairpersons of the institution whose term was extended twice, having overseen a number of regulatory reforms of the financial sector, such as more stringent disclosure norms, while reportedly also not having been afraid to make enemies in the corporate sector.

He is a 1976-batch IAS officer, who had also worked as joint secretary in the Ministry of Finance, dealing with banking and capital markets.

Cyril Amarchand, meanwhile, had made national headlines last year for having been drafted in to assist Infosys in sorting out the messes in its boardroom, but managing partner Cyril Shroff said: “We've been involved in boardrooms for donkey's years, but not formally until the last year or two.”

“Infosys was the most public of them, but we've done several fairly high profile profile governance situations,“ Shroff added. “Obviously Infosys was the most prominent of them all [but] there have also been several instructions on board training, even M&A transactions, when we advise boards on how to navigate them, sometimes on ethical situations. There are millions of examples.”

Sinha commented in a statement that CAM was “widely recognised for its leadership on corporate governance advisory”, adding: “Evolution of the regulatory regime concerning corporate governance was a very important aspect of my tenure at SEBI. This is a topic that I have significant interest in and I am glad to be getting another meaningful opportunity to contribute to its development.”

Shroff said that Sinha would be spending the majority of his time at CAM and would not be working for any other advisory firms.

Brave new profitable world?

Shroff noted that no one else was really doing this kind of work in India at present, but that there was major scope for developing the practice. “With the imminent arrival of class action suits and activism we see this practice becoming very relevant,“ Shroff noted.

“It's very profitable - actually a sort of subset of the broader corporate practice. It's a very specialised thing not just the law but a lot of judgment and advisory work. It's undoubtedly a very premium high quality extension of the corporate practice.”

Until Sinha's arrival, the practice included Shroff and four other corporate partners.

It is understood that other former SEBI, UTI and IDBI chairman Meleveetil Damodaran, has also been offering similar corporate governance advisory work under The Damodaran Group banner.

Update 15:37: Economic Laws Practice (ELP) has let us know that it's had a corporate regulatory practice for a while now, telling us:

Corporate governance is becoming increasingly important in today’s environment of shareholder activism, and investigators who have the benefit of hindsight. ELP has built a practice in this field too and has retained Ranganaykulu erstwhile executive director (law) at SEBI. ELP has been active in advising many local listed companies and large conglomerates on corporate governance issues.

“I want to develop it like Wachtell's governance practice,“ Shroff explained about the plans, referring to what is arguably the most elite of the elite New York-based corporate law firms, Wachtell Lipton. “Wachtell has created a separate governance group, basically a Martin Lipton-led group. Even the SEC looks to them for guidance.”

In a statement, the firm said:

The CAM - CGC, being the first of its kind, will be the centrepiece of the Firm’s thought leadership and advisory initiatives in the area of corporate governance. As a Think Tank it will undertake continuous study and research on complex and nuanced issues pertaining to governance. The initiatives of the CAM - CGC will be wide ranging and will include providing specialized, bespoke board advisory services, assisting companies in setting up internal governance procedures and controls, representation in shareholder/ activist engagements engaging with Indian and international stakeholders and training of board members and senior management. The CAM - CGC will also contribute to deepening of understanding of corporate governance issues specific to Indian markets through seminars, publications and engaging with market participants and regulators. And thereby, shape the governance conversation in India.

In the statement, Shroff also added:

“With the setting up of the CAM – CGC, we are taking our Corporate Governance practice sharply to the next level. We believe that this has the potential to be an independent practice like in western markets. We see governance related conversations becoming more frequent and urgent across Indian corporates, stakeholders and regulators. The answers are never simple and straightforward and require maturity, experience and multi-disciplinary expertise. So this is very exciting for CAM given our focus on this practice over the last few years. I am very glad to have U.K. Sinha join us as we cross a very important milestone. He brings with him the substance and experience that this practice needs, and which I believe, our clients will immensely benefit from. His scholarly and thoughtful approach will add enormous depth to our offering”.

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