An Initial Public Offering is the process through which companies sell their shares to the common public in order to raise equity capital. To go public, a company must first file an IPO prospectus with the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI), which outlines the details of the offering. The SEBI then reviews the prospectus and decides whether the offering can proceed or not.
The Risks of an IPO
Exposure to a company's liabilities typically begins with the company’s IPO roadshow, or even as a business makes legal, tax, and operational decisions leading up to it. Investors rely heavily on statements made during roadshow presentations and on the information presented in a company’s prospectus. Misleading statements made during this time can lead to IPO claims.
The process of going public with an Initial Public Offering (IPO) involves significant risks to the directors, officers and the company itself. Let us look at the major risks in an IPO process.
Misleading Prospectus Information
Directors, Officers, and selling shareholders can be liable for misleading or false information in the prospectus under listing regulations. A Liability arises if the prospectus lacks material information or has incorrect details about the company's financials, operations, etc.
Breach of Warranties in Underwriting Agreements
An underwriting agreement contains warranties from directors, company, shareholders regarding the accuracy of prospectus content. Breach of warranties in the underwriting agreement also results in personal liability for directors/shareholders. Liability risk starts from the beginning of roadshows and lasts beyond IPO completion.
Hence, there is a need for a Public Offering of Securities Insurance (POSI) as it specifically covers liabilities arising from incorrect or inadequate disclosures in security documents.
POSI and Companies Act 2013
The Directors and Officers of a Company can be held liable based on the following section of the Companies Act 2013:
- Section 34: Criminal liability for misstatements in prospectus.
- Section 35: Civil Liability for Misstatements in Prospectus
- Section 36: Punishment for fraudulently inducing persons to invest money.
- Section 37: Action by affected persons
- Section 245: Class Action