ICICI Bank has approached the Bombay High Court, seeking recovery of bonuses given to Chanda Kochhar after the termination of her appointment as the bank's CEO and MD. Kochhar has been accused of playing a role in grant of out-of-turn loans of Rs 3,250 crore to Videocon Group, which allegedly benefited her husband, Deepak Kochhar.
The monetary suit was reportedly filed on January 10. The bank in an affidavit sought the dismissal of Kochhar's petition filed last year. "ICICI has filed a suit seeking recovery of amounts towards the clawback of bonuses given to the petitioner (Kochhar) from April 2006 to March 2018 pursuant to the termination of the petitioner's services," the bank said in its affidavit, PTI reported.
Clawback means a company can take back incentive-based pay, like a bonus, from an employee in case of any misconduct or declining profits. Explaining its stand, the ICICI Bank says Kochhar had entered into an agreement with the bank on December 8, 2016, as per which the bank can seek return of previously paid variable pay from her in case of integrity breach.
"The petitioner's conduct has caused substantial embarrassment to the bank and all the stake-holders, and has led to irreparable reputational loss to the bank," the ICICI peition says, adding her misconduct violated ICICI Group's Code of Business Conduct and Ethics.
The ICICI Bank's affidavit also says that Kochhar's petition challenging her sacking claiming violation of the RBI rules is an "malafide attempt" to secure valuable stock options of the bank. The matter has been posted for further hearing on January 20.
In January 2019, the bank had set up Justice (retd) BN Srikrishna Committee to probe quid pro quo link in the Rs 3,250 crore loan given to Videocon. The panel in its report found that Kochhar worked in violation of the ICICI Bank's Code of Conduct and found her role in violation of the bank's "framework for dealing with conflict of interest and fiduciary duties, and in terms of applicable Indian laws, rules and regulations".
Kochhar had moved the Bombay HC challenging her ex-employer's decision to terminate her in November 30, 2019, after the bank approved her request for early retirement. ICICI Bank's board had also decided to take back all the bonuses and stock options paid to her between April 2009 and March 2018. Kochhar, in her, petition also challenged the 'purported termination' and refusal of the approved compensation. Seeking the court's intervention, she termed her termination "illegal, untenable, and unsustainable in law".
The Enforcement Directorate (ED) is investigating the allegations against ICICI Bank that it illegally sanctioned loans to Videocon Group when Chanda Kochhar was at its helm. The allegations also point out that companies controlled by Chanda's husband Deepak Kochhar received kickbacks from Videocon in lieu of loans from ICICI Bank. The agency last week provisionally attached assets and shares belonging to Kochhar concerning the ICICI Bank-Videocon loan scam. The total worth of the attached assets is estimated to be above Rs 78 crore, but their market value is expected to be much higher.
Edited by Manoj Sharma