ICICI Bank now distances itself from Sebi probe against Chanda Kochhar

Chanda Kochhar
Amid multiple probes against ICICI Bank’s former managing director and chief executive officer Chanda Kochhar, the private sector lender has urged the Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi) not to club its inquiry against her with that against the bank and sought a separate investigation.

 

Currently, the market regulator is conducting adjudication proceedings against both the bank and Kochhar for potential conflict of interest in the business dealings of her husband, Deepak Kochhar, with the Videocon group.

 

On January 10, ICICI Bank wrote to Sebi, seeking “decoupling of the bank’s proceedings” from hers (Chanda) as the issues were different, said a source privy to the communique.

 

Citing Sebi’s insider-trading regulation, the bank said the onus of making disclosures was on the employee. In her disclosure to the bank, Kochhar had not mentioned about the family business interests between 2015 and 2018, it said.

 

The bank informed Sebi that Kochhar had written to the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) in 2018 where she denied any beneficial interest in Pinnacle Energy, managed by her husband. This trust had allegedly received an investment of Rs 64 crore from Videocon Industries Chairman Venugopal Dhoot through multiple transactions.

 

The bank also said the then MD and CEO had violated its recusal policy, which is in line with RBI guidelines, and had never recused herself from any meeting. Neither had she ever disclosed the nature of the interest with the companies that had been sanctioned loans. The revelations came after Sebi recently put a slew of questions to the bank with regard to its reply to the May 23 show-cause notice.

 

Interestingly, the bank had defended its ex-CEO during the personal hearing called by the regulator on October 16, 2018. The bank had then said that its code of conduct did not mandate disclosure of investments or transactions concerning firms that are owned by a bank employee’s spouse.

 

The bank did not respond to a query sent by Business Standard. It had earlier also claimed that all information to be disclosed by Kochhar was taken on record and disclosures were made to the stock exchanges. While elaborating the whole credit process involving the disbursement of Rs 3,250-crore loans to the Videocon group, the bank had said Kochhar was not the committee’s chairperson.

 

On Thursday, the CBI, which is probing criminal conspiracy in the matter, had named Kochhar and her husband, along with his firms, as “accused”. The probe agency said the accused sanctioned certain loans to private companies in a criminal conspiracy and cheated ICICI Bank to the tune of Rs 1,730 crore.

 

The CBI said it had investigated the quid pro quo where Dhoot made an investment of Rs 64 crore in Deepak Kochhar’s NuPower Renewables through his firm Supreme Energy. Dhoot also transferred the same to Pinnacle Energy managed by Kochhar through a “circuitous route” between 2010 and 2012.

 

The central agency had registered preliminary enquiry in March last year. Soon after, the ICICI Bank board came out in defence of Kochhar and said it had full confidence in her and ruled out any quid pro quo.

 

Shares of ICICI Bank fell 2.2 per cent to close at Rs 357 on Friday. The BSE Bankex, a gauge for the performance of banking stocks, fell 0.63 per cent. Market players said the CBI development has cast a negative spell on the shares of ICICI Bank as current CEO Sandeep Bakhshi is also named in the CBI first information report and his role too is being probed. With inputs from Samie Modak



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