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US Court delivers judgement in favour of Eros on 'short and distort' claim

Default judgment is short-term win of reputation

Pavan Lall  |  Mumbai 

Eros International

A recent judgment of the Supreme Court in the State of New York ruled in favour of Indian film-maker International Media on legal action it had levied against a consortium of short-sellers that were allegedly manipulating stock prices.

Specifically, the court ruled for the motion against Manuel Asensio and Asensio & Company, which missed on a court-stated deadline to revert according to the proceedings of the law despite six attempts to deliver documents to him. Manuel Asensio is the founder, chairman and president of Asensio & Company, an investment firm established in 1992 and well-known as a pioneer of activist short selling.

Referring to the judgment, Eros’ Managing Director and Chairman Kishore Lulla said, “Damages are to be determined at a later phase in the case but the damage done from the misconduct of the short-sellers is substantial.”

Lulla and filed the lawsuit in 2017 against the short-sellers, which also include other and individuals. A former senior employee who worked with Eros said, “The damages may depend on whether those served have the liquidity and also how the judgment affects the other alleged short-sellers; overall the decision helps clears the the reputation of Eros and its promoters.”

Eros has seen its stock get battered and crash from Rs 400 in 2015 to Rs 15 in 2019 and become a de facto penny stock.

“We will aggressively pursue this matter until its conclusion, which in the US courts may take a matter of years,” said Lulla, when asked by when he saw a settlement happening. Does he have an answer as to or who has been instigating the attacks through the short-sellers ? “Our lawsuit speaks for itself,” Lulla replied.

Lulla and Eros filed the lawsuit in 2017 against the short-sellers which also include other and individuals.

The film company which was known for backing big-ticket blockbusters that included the likes of Salman Khan-starrer Bajrangi Bhaijan and the Deepika Padukone-led Bajirao Mastani has been missing in action and focusing on joint ventures (co-productions) even as success eluded its smaller productions such as Bhavesh Joshi Superhero, Manmarziyan, Sarkar 3, Rock On 2, Baar Baar Dekho, and Mukkabaaz, says Apurva Agarwal, managing partner at corporate law firm Universal Legal Advocates. "Despite this a resurgence in the stock price of the company in India and its entities abroad, leads to some doubts creeping in on the rationale of the movement of the stock prices upwards within a time which beats common sense, and the way the shares of Eros are moving may be because of market manipulation.”

Market manipulation is when someone artificially affects the supply or demand for a security (for example, causing stock prices to rise or to fall dramatically). Rigging quotes, prices, or trades to make it look like there is more or less demand for a security than is the case.

One financial analyst who declined to be named said that although currency manipulation is not illegal, different types of manipulation such as stock and market manipulation generally are. “Institutional Investors can move stock prices to their advantage and manipulating stock prices can happen quite easily, and it takes place more often than you might think. Achieving it in a perfectly legal way is not necessarily difficult, depending on how much trading power an entity has,” he said.

The point its that short sellers do not destroy value any more than stock buyers create it. Other than IPOs, buying and selling stocks is all done on the secondary market, so selling stock does not hurt a company any more than buying stock helps it. Except that short sellers don't buy shares, they borrow them to sell, and bet the stock they sell will drop in price. If the stock does drop after selling, the short seller buys it back at a lower price and returns it to the lender. Short selling is risky. Going long on a stock means that the investor can only lose their initial investment.

First Published: Tue, December 03 2019. 20:04 IST