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April 24, 2013

What's west bengal chit fund scam

First of all, the West Bengal “chit funds” are not chit funds at all. Chit funds are a different structure altogether. Chit funds are mutual credit groups where money circulates among the group members, and the monthly contributions of the chit members are received circularly by one of the members who bids for the same at the highest interest rate or lowest “net present value”. Chit funds are perfectly legal, if they are registered under the Chit Funds Act, 1982, and run under the provisions of the law. The several names that keep popping up in West Bengal are not chit funds—these are collective investment schemes  or public deposit schemes which on the face of it do not fall under any law, as they are structured so as to be neither a “public deposit” nor a “collective investment scheme”. But that facial structure is so gullible that any regulatory investigation may easily expose that these schemes were effectively nothing but public deposit schemes.

The common thread in these fund schemes is that the flow of new ‘depositors’ must keep coming in, because the only source from which maturing deposits could be serviced is by inflows from new depositors. Money is initially raised at hefty interest rates, and with attractive periodic prizes, gifts, gala parties, and so on. The agents who mobilise the deposits are given hefty commissions, because the structure essentially relies on a highly incentivised structure of brokers or agents, who reach right to the doors of the depositors to collect deposits. The cost of interest, plus the agency commissions, the luxurious spendings on so-called depositor prizes, and add to all this the lavish remunerations of the promoters themselves—all adds to a huge cost of interest, say, about 25% to 30%, which no lawful business may produce. It is not that these promoters are blue-eyed investors who know tricks of investing—so, they end up investing money in illiquid properties, resorts or hotels.
Now, the only way to keep servicing investors is that new depositors must flow in, so that old depositors can be repaid. That is, the base of the depositor pyramid has to continue to expand so that those up in pyramid can be paid—this is what Ponzi schemes are all about.  This is what we call “tiger riding”.
Soon, the ride comes to and, and guess what happens at the end of any tiger ride! In the process, thousands of gullible investors have lost their life savings.
As hundreds of crores are raised though tens of thousands of agents, surely enough the exercise is not invisible to the regulatory eye. The massive money which is raised, irrespective of the label, surely shows somewhere on the balance sheet of the company, which is filed regularly with the MCA (ministry of corporate affairs). The primary recipient of the information about these companies is the MCA, and surprisingly, it is the MCA which is the least proactive in the entire process of bringing these perpetrators to regulatory focus, sooner before tonnes of money vanish.
No, it certainly is not the lack of laws that allows these scamsters to rob people of hard-earned money. It is clearly an implementation issue.

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