Subroto Roy, MS Dhoni and Larry Page – Why are Sahara, BCCI and Google in the dock?

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Few people in this world can build money, fame and organizations simultaneously.  They are able push the boundaries of what is doable and what is achievable, unlike most of us; and such people naturally have many who are envious.

But Indian judiciary and regulators are questioning all three and the organizations they are associated with. To me in all three cases, there is a problem on the regulators side and also by extension there is problem with the judiciary.  They are both fallible as are the people they are investigating.

We love to blame humans especially if they are larger than life showmen, and our media loves to plaster their images on the front image with a byline on how they ‘betrayed us’.  But that typically hides the real questions – what is the problem, who has been harmed, and how should the problem be corrected and by which organization.

In the case of Sahara, a regulator called Securities Exchange Board of India took it upon itself the task of cleaning up Sahara – and went to the court. But between Sahara and its clients there was no problem.  The clients have not asked Sahara for their money back, the court is forcing Sahara to return their money.   Then where was the problem?  Hold that thought for a moment.

In the case of Dhoni it is being said that Dhoni was simultaneously captain of CSK and employee of India Cements, and both these private entities are owned by the same person.  So there is conflict of interest according to the famed lawyer Salve.  If I own two firms, and use one employee to work in both the firms, does that mean that person has conflict of interest?  Then what is the problem? Hold this as well.

In the case of Google, the Competition Commission of India is quite categorical that it has not been sharing data. And therefore has asked it to pay Rs 1 crore as fine.  Now that’s interesting, when Subroto Roy is accused of not sharing data, he has to return the depositors money – even though the depositors do not want it back.  But when Google does not share its data, it gets lots of time by depositing a crore!

The problem is that rumors, gossip and canard have a serious impact on how regulators and the judiciary give their judgments.  Subroto Roy has been identified as an unethical businessman by many, Srinivasan has been identified as a gambler (and so is just about everyone in the BCCI) and the ‘fact’ that they are crooks is ‘universally-known’.  And therefore the thought that they need to be judged against the strictest of standards.

But Google is relatively clean in the public’s mind; despite the mess that Google can potentially create through anti-competitive practices would be far higher in scale and scope than Subroto and Srinivasan put together.  And so Google gets a relatively lax judgement.

Good institutions require some very well informed, cynical and disciplined minds to run them.  On one hand, Supreme Court is going overboard in intervening in matters it should ideally have stayed away from had our investigative agencies been working properly.  On the other, the Competition regulator should have been far more aggressive in dealing with Google than it did. In both cases however the reputation of the owner seems to be the driving force when it should simply be the known facts of the matter at hand.

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