In its Decision published on 11 January 2010, the Tribunal has found on the balance of probabilities that Mr Chhabra, whilst an analyst at Evolution Securities, passed price sensitive information to Mr Patel, an experienced spread bettor.
Mr Chhabra and Mr Patel maintain they did not engage in market abuse.
Mr Patel was a prolific trader especially in the stocks concerned. He provided evidence to the FSA that he had legitimate reasons to bet on these stocks in the direction, the size and at the time he did. The Tribunal itself accepted that some of the characteristics of these bets were consistent with Mr Patel’s general trading strategy. The FSA also inferred that Mr Chhabra was in possession of price sensitive information when Mr Patel placed his bets when much of the evidence suggested otherwise.
Furthermore the FSA and the Tribunal have reached their decisions even after accepting that Mr Chhabra did not benefit financially from Mr Patel’s trading. Mr Chhabra had no reason to jeopardise his reputation and career by behaving in the way that the FSA allege.
Despite having investigated the matter for nearly 5 years, the FSA failed to produce any firm evidence to support their case. The evidence against Mr Patel and Mr Chhabra is circumstantial, and exists alongside other evidence which suggests the contrary. Not one email, phone call recording, witness statement or evidence of financial dealings between Mr Chhabra and Mr Sameer Patel has been produced which bears out the FSA’s view.
With less than a week before the hearing before the Tribunal to determine penalty, the FSA petitioned the Tribunal to more than double the penalty that the FSA themselves had originally decided. By proceeding to the penalty hearing, Mr Chhabra and Mr Patel would have exposed themselves to intolerable financial risk in addition to the penalties originally proposed. The FSA has now accepted that the original penalties stand, but only in return for Mr Chhabra and Mr Patel giving up their statutory right to appeal.
This tactic may discourage potentially meritorious applicants taking their cases to the Tribunal in the future. Applicants could face the jeopardy of the FSA petitioning for a higher fine than originally imposed if they proceeded to defend themselves.