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Veritas Analyst Who Authored Negative Report on IndiaBulls Arrested; Is It Time For Collective Action?

Nitin Mangal, who co-authored the Veritas report on Indiabulls, has been arrested by the Gurgaon police after he surrendered to them. Indiabulls has filed complaints against Mangal and Veritas co-author Neeraj Monga (who’s based in Canada) after their report on Indiabulls in 2012. Mangal has been arrested for six days for “questioning”, after his anticipatory bail applications were refused in the Haryana courts and later, the Supreme court.

Capital Mind had covered the story in part: Veritas-Indiabulls Fight: The Employee Welfare Trust.

Indiabulls has claimed that Monga offered, on email, to withhold the report from “larger” circulation if Indiabulls would pay $40,000 for a subscription. (Livemint) This is the basis of the case.

Indiabulls also put a public announcement to clarify matters.

According to Livemint, Veritas has counter-sued Indiabulls in Canada, alleging that Indiabulls’ actions including full page advertisements have caused Veritas to lose money after they pulled out of India.

This has huge issues at various levels:

  • While it is common for journalists in India to request for a subscription or ad-space to “withhold” a report, it is almost NEVER a written request because everyone knows it’s illegal. It would be very stupid for smart people like Monga and Mangal to make that demand in an email, and if there is one, it could be trivial to prove that such an email was never sent (and thus, has been forged). Given that it is sent from a “personal” email id, the provider – such as GMail or others – can be requested for details.
  • If there was such an email actually sent, then the journalists need to be questioned and appropriately punished.
  • However, if the email was forged, then the IndiaBulls management should immediately be punished for forgery and intimidation, with no bail provided until all appeals are cleared.
  • This is either a case where Indiabulls have threatened Veritas (and effectively shut them up, because Veritas no longer covers Indian companies), or a case that Veritas has demanded money to shut out negative coverage. We need to find out which.

It has been two years since the case began, and I hope the truth comes out. However, it is now clear that companies can threaten and intimidate analysts and journalists – even Saurabh Mukherjea had said he was told “We know which route you take to go home”.

Intimidation is rife – look recently also at a Mumbaiwalla post where someone from the National Stock Exchange is supposedly using threats of legal action to make them stop reporting something about how the NSE’s accounting has worked. We at Capital Mind have received both threats (on the phone) and requests for “what would it take to remove that post”. This is not uncommon, and journos have even been killed in Mumbai for reporting something someone didn’t want to.

Having said this, companies can send legal notices (which have no real value – you should just respond and say we deny any wrongdoing, please go to court). They can file cases. If we are to stop this kind of intimidation, we need legal resources, not a “ban” on such legal action.

Some lawyers may work pro-bono, most will not. It is in our interest to set up a fund to defend analysts and journalists against such action. It will need us to set up a trust and lawyers who we can trust to fight such cases and to popularize them so that companies that act like bullies will have to deal with the infamy of being known as one.

It is very difficult to get people in India to donate for a cause. But it would make sense for the analyst and journalist community to fund this cause, because like they say, “In the end, when they come for you, no one will be left to fight for you”.

  • EV says:

    I’ve always said the same “lawyer-fund” concept should be there for stand-up comedians too! 🙁

  • SG says:

    Good coverage of various aspects at stake here and possible solution of “legal fund”. Doesn’t Press Council of India (popularized by Justice Markandeya Katju) already have some means of protecting/helping fellow journalists?

  • Balvir says:

    The case is a complete forged case from Indiabulls. The mail sent by monga has been forged by Indiabulls. One of Indiabulls proxy based in london has sent neeraj monga for subscribing to veritas research reports. In reply to that Neeraj has wrote that the subscription fees is $ 50000/- and that the reports are first accessible to paid members.

    • AP says:

      If a subscription enquiry/ request was made to Neeraj Monga, he should have forwarded it to their sales / marketing department, rather than replying those himself.
      That would be the safe and professional way to handle it.