Tata Sons gets 1st woman director

Farida Khambata

Tata Sons, promoter of the major operating Tata companies, appointed top ranked investment strategist Farida Khambata as the first woman independent director in the company’s 103-year history. With the appointment of Khambata, global strategist at emerging markets-focused investment firm Cartica Capital, Tata Sons’ board has expanded to seven members.

Cartica Capital, set up by former executives of International Finance Corporation (IFC), an arm of World Bank, that manages assets worth over $2.6 billion, has investments in TTK ments in TTK Prestige, Page Industries (the Indian franchise of Jockey International), Ratnakar Bank and Mahindra & Mahindra Financial Services in India. Khambata had joined Cartica from IFC where she last held the position of regional vice-president in charge of operations in East Asia and the Pacific, South Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean.

Khambata’s appointment indicates Tata Sons chairman Cyrus Mistry’s increased preference for new and external faces on the company’s board, a shift from the past where most of its directors were Tata Group executives. Earlier, Tata Sons directors were also part of the group executive council that provided strategic and operational support to then Tata Sons chairman Ratan Tata. Now the Tata Sons board and the group executive council have separate members under Mistry .

At present, besides two Tata executives, Ishaat Hussain and R Gopalakrishnan the rest on the Tata Sons board are external members Under regulatory pressure, over 100 listed companies on Wednesday announced appointment of women directors, even as many others including some state-run giants were seen lagging behind in having at least one female member on their boards.

According to the Sebi directive and the Companies Act, 2013, all listed firms were required to have at least one woman director on their boards byMarch 31, 2015. The companies have been warned of “serious consequences“, including hefty penalties for non-compliance. Sources said Sebi has sought a compliance status report from the stock exchanges (SEs) and would take a call accordingly. Interestingly, most of the companies onWednesday said that the appointments were effective Tuesday , or even prior dates.

Those lagging behind in appointing women directors included Jet Airways and Amrapali Industries, as also a number of state-run firms such as ONGC, PNB and BPCL, NHPC, SJVNL and RCF, as per the latest update available with the exchanges.At least 50 companies announced the appointments late in the evening.

Discrepancies have already begun to show in the appointments, as some companies have appointed persons without DIN (Director Identification Number) as directors, while a few others have not submitted board approval for the appointments. Besides, a few companies have already started writing to the stock exchanges and Sebi about change in the name, saying that there were some mistakes in their earlier regulatory filing about the appointment. This has given rise to suspicion that the companies could have just done a “tick-box“ job with the appointment in giving names of the women directors, without actually having brought them on board as yet.

Sebi had first issued the guidelines in February 2014, seeking compliance before October 1 that year, but later extended the deadline by six months. According to leading proxy advisory firm, Institutional Investor Advisory Services India (IiAS), having a woman director on board is just the first step towards board diversity .

The companies without a woman director may face penal action under the Sebi regulations, as also under the Companies Act, including monetary fines. While Sebi norms provide for penalty of up to Rs 25 crore, the penalty under the Companies Act can be from Rs 5,000 to Rs 5 lakh.

Sebi will look into the final compliance status and begin the process for undertaking necessary action against the non-compliant companies. Similar action would be initiated by the corporate affairs ministry for non-compliance to the companies act provisions.

Reeba Zachariah

The Times of India (Bombay), Thursday, Apr 02 2015, Page 17 :

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