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Srikrishna panel indicts Kochhar; ICICI Bank to stop unpaid retirement benefits, recover bonuses

twitter-logo PTI        Last Updated: January 30, 2019  | 23:22 IST

(Eds: Adding more details, combining related stories) New Delhi/ Mumbai Jan 30 (PTI) An independent enquiry panel Wednesday indicted former ICICI Bank chief Chanda Kochhar for violating regulations, with the bank deciding to stop all her unpaid retirement benefits and recover bonuses paid since 2009, an embarrassment for the lender which had given the once high-flying banker a clean chit in the Videocon loan case last year. Hours after the ICICI Bank disclosed the findings of the Justice B N Srikrishna-led panel as well as the move to consider her resignation as "Termination for Cause", Kochhar said she was "disappointed, hurt and shocked" by the decision. Kochhar, also the first woman to head a bank in India when she took over as ICICI Bank CEO in 2009, said she served the ICICI group for 34 long years "with all my dedication and hard work" and the bank's latest decision has caused her "immense hurt and pain". The latest development comes days after the CBI filed an FIR naming Kochhar and others in the alleged quid pro quo in extending Rs 3,250-crore loan to Videocon Group. Amid raging controversy over the case, Kochhar -- also a Padma Bhushan awardee -- quit the bank in October 2018 months after the lender had given a clean chit to her over the issue. An independent enquiry panel led by Srikrishna observed that Kochhar violated bank policies and other rules and regulations. Based on the findings of the panel, the ICICI Bank board has advised to take "further actions as may be warranted in the matter". Meanwhile, ICICI Bank CEO Sandeep Bakhshi said in analyst call that the bank has put out a statement about Kochhar, and the lender's role now is limited to cooperating with regulatory agencies. The board, following the receipt of the enquiry report, on Wednesday decided to treat "the separation of Kochhar from the bank as a 'Termination for Cause' under the bank's internal policies, schemes and the Code of Conduct, with all attendant consequences". These, the statement said, include revocation of all her existing and future entitlements such as any unpaid amounts, unpaid bonuses or increments, unvested and vested and unexercised stock options, and medical benefits. The board has also asked the bank to take steps for "clawback of all bonuses paid from April 2009 until March 2018, and to take such further actions as may be warranted in the matter". Kochhar became the CEO and managing director of the country's leading private sector lender in May 2009 and left the bank in October 2018. The report found that "Kochhar was in violation of the ICICI Bank Code of Conduct, its framework for dealing with conflict of interest and fiduciary duties, and in terms of applicable Indian laws, rules and regulations". The committee report concluded that there was lack of diligence with respect to annual disclosures as required by the bank in terms of its internal policies and violation of Code of Conduct and applicable Indian laws. In March 2018, the board of ICICI Bank had given a clean chit to Kochhar and had said there was no question of favouritism, nepotism or conflict of interest on her part in granting loans to Videocon Industries or any other company. There were allegations of involvement of Kochhar and her family members in a loan provided to Videocon group on a quid pro quo basis. It was alleged that Videocon Group pumped money into NuPower Renewables, a firm owned by Deepak Kochhar, husband of Chanda Kochhar. The allegation of conflict of interest was levelled by whistle blower Arvind Gupta. Later, in March, another unnamed whistle-blower complained against the bank and its top management, including Kochhar, alleging a deliberate delay in recognising impairment in 31 loan accounts between 2008 and 2016 to save on provisioning costs. These allegations led to probes by multiple agencies, including the CBI, ED and SFIO, and also questioning of the Kochhar family members. The country's second largest private sector lender Wednesday reported little over 1 per cent decline in consolidated net income at Rs 1,874 crore for the three months ended December. PTI DP AA CS ANZ BEN RAM MKJ

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