In 1998, investors of Unit Trust of India's (UTI) Unit Scheme-1964 (US-64) were shaken by media reports claiming that things were seriously wrong with the mutual fund major. For the first time in its 32 years of existence, US-64 faced depleting funds and redemptions exceeding the sales. Between July 1995 and March 1996, funds declined by Rs 3,104 crore. Analysts remarked that the depleting corpus coupled with the redemptions could soon result in a liquidity crisis.
Soon, reports regarding the lack of proper fund management and internal control systems at UTI added to the growing investor frenzy. By October 1998, US-64's equity component's market value had come down to Rs 4200 crore from its acquisition price of Rs 8200 crore. The net asset value (NAV) of US-64 also declined significantly during 1993-1996 due to turbulent stock market conditions. A Business Today survey cited US-64's NAV at Rs 9.68 . The US-64 units, which were sold at Rs 14.55 and repurchased at Rs 14.25 in October 1998, thus were around 50% and 47%, above their estimated NAV.
Amidst growing concerns over the fate of US-64 investors, it became necessary for UTI to take immediate steps to put rest to the controversy.
UTI was established through a Parliament Act in 1964, to channelise the nation's savings via mutual fund schemes. This was done as in the earlier days, raising the capital from markets was very difficult for the companies due to the public being very conservative and risk averse. By February 2001, UTI was managing funds worth Rs 64,250 crore through over 92 saving schemes such as US-64, Unit Linked Insurance Plan, Monthly Income Plan etc. UTI's distribution network was well spread out with 54 branch offices, 295 district representatives and about 75,000 agents across the country.
The first scheme introduced by UTI was the Unit Scheme-1964, popularly known as US-64. The fund's initial capital of Rs 5 crore was contributed by Reserve Bank of India (RBI), Financial Institutions, Life Insurance Corporation (LIC), State Bank of India (SBI) and other scheduled banks including few foreign banks. It was an open-ended scheme , promising an attractive income, ready liquidity and tax benefits. In the first year of its launch, US-64 mobilized Rs 19 crore and offered a 6.1% dividend as compared to the prevailing bank deposit interest rates of 3.75 - 6%. This impressed the average Indian investor who until then considered bank deposits to be the safest and best investment opportunity. By October 2000, US-64 increased its capital base to Rs 15993 crore, spread over 2 crore unit holders all over the world.
However by the late 1990s, US-64 had emerged as an example for portfolio mismanagement. In 1998, UTI chairman P.S.Subramanyam revealed that the reserves of US-64 had turned negative by Rs 1098 crore. Immediately after the announcement, the Sensex fell by 224 points. A few days later, the Sensex went down further by 40 points, reaching a 22-month low under selling pressure by Foreign Institutional Investors (FIIs). This was widely believed to have reflected the adverse market sentiments about US-64. Nervous investors soon redeemed US-64 units worth Rs 580 crore. There was widespread panic across the country with intensive media coverage adding fuel to the controversy.