An investigation headed by former Supreme Court judge BN Srikrishna will look into allegations of quid pro quo levelled against ICICI Bank CEO Chanda Kochhar. On May 30, the ICICI Bank had said that it would initiate an inquiry into the allegations of 'conflict of interest' against its CEO.
According to a report in The Economic Times, the ICICI Bank board felt that the former apex court judge BN Srikrishna would be the best person to conduct this inquiry. "Justice Srikrishna is an independent and credible name, who has a good understanding of the financial markets," the report quoted a source as saying.
The probe headed by Srikrishna will investigate whether Kochhar violated the bank's code of conduct and was involved in quid pro quo transactions with certain bank borrowers. A whistleblower, Arvind Gupta, had accused Kochhar of having given out huge loans to certain business groups who in return extended benefits to companies run by her husband Deepak Kochhar and brother-in-law Rajeev Kochhar.
In a regulatory filing, the bank had said the inquiry would be headed by an 'independent and credible person' to examine the complaint. "The scope of the enquiry would be comprehensive and would include all relevant matters arising out of and in the course of examination of the facts and, where ever warranted, the use of forensic or email reviews and recordal of statements of relevant personnel, etc," the bank statement said.
The country's second-largest private lender has been embroiled in controversies ever since investor and the whistle-blower alleged a 'quid pro quo' in ICICI Bank's Rs 3,250 crore plus Rs 660 crore loans to Venugopal Dhoot-owned Videocon Industries. He had alleged that it was the time when an identical 10 per cent foreign funding (Rs 325 crore and Rs 66 crore) made its way to NuPower Renewables, a company co-founded by Chanda Kochhar's husband Deepak Kochhar. The ICICI Bank Board has consistently denied the allegations, saying the loans offered to Videocon were part of a consortium of lenders that extended the facility to Videocon.
Gupta had first levelled allegations in 2016. At that time, ICICI Bank Chairman MK Sharma, in an internal inquiry, had cleared Chanda Kochhar of any wrongdoing charge. The report findings were also shared with the Prime Minister's Office and the CBI. In March, ICICI Bank Chairman MK Sharma had said the board has full confidence in Chanda Kochhar.
The bank even clarified that none of the investors of NuPower Renewables is a borrower of ICICI Bank. Deepak Kochhar, during an interview with India Today TV, had said he had not disclosed his ties with Dhoot to Chanda Kochhar. "Chanda did not know when I set up NuPower. I knew Dhoot through social circles. I told her when Dhoot exited."
Breaking silence on the controversy, Chanda Kochhar, during a press conference on ICICI Bank Q4 results on May 8, said she had nothing more to add as the bank board had made its stand clear on the issue. She added the bank had always co-operated with the regulatory and investigating agencies and would continue to do so.
Last month, the Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi) had sent a notice to ICICI Bank MD and CEO Chanda Kochhar, seeking her response on the alleged non-compliance with norms in dealings with the Videocon Group and Nupower Renewables, a company co-founded by her husband Deepak Kochhar.