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Franklin Templeton: What happened behind the scenes, including on risk management

The Franklin Templeton saga is a cautionary tale on how fund houses and regulators must protect the interest of investors. Ahead of a crucial hearing by the Supreme Court on February 23, Moneycontrol analyses the vital aspects of the case, based on new findings from an audit.

February 23, 2021 / 11:02 AM IST

First, a quick catch-up on the story so far.

On April 23, 2020, in a sudden move, Franklin Templeton Mutual Fund announced the winding up of six of its debt mutual fund schemes in India with total assets between Rs 25,000 and Rs 30,000 crore (roughly $3.75–4.25 billion) affecting more than 3 lakh investors. The virus and the resultant illiquidity in debt markets—specifically in lower-rated debt held by these schemes—were cited as the reasons for this winding up decision by Franklin Templeton.

Much has happened in the past 10 months. There were a litany of court litigation, followed by allegations of mismanagement by Franklin Templeton, which the company denied, and investors approaching courts. A deadlock ensued.

As an immediate relief, Supreme Court, in its orders dated February 2 and 9, 2021 broke this deadlock by directing the distribution of cash surpluses of R. 9,122 crore. The court named SBI Funds Management to oversee the winding up and return of money to investors.

One of the observations from the auditor is that Franklin Templeton Trustees failed to ensure that the IPN (Investment Process Note) contained detailed and objective criteria for investments.  Franklin Templeton also failed to satisfy the auditors that IPN requirements were complied with, per the auditor. The board had specified very broad parameters for the IPN but did not cover any objective criteria or periodicity for review among other factors that should have been there in the investment process, according to the auditor.