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No Queries from RBI on Kochhar-Videocon Row: ICICI Bank

Chanda Kochhar is facing allegations of conflict of interest and a lack of disclosures. The bank board did not discuss the issue at its meeting on Monday, despite the controversy that Kochhar is engulfed in.

PTI

Updated:May 9, 2018, 10:10 PM IST
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No Queries from RBI on Kochhar-Videocon Row: ICICI Bank
File photo of ICICI Bank CEO Chanda Kochhar. (Reuters)
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Mumbai: ICICI Bank has said it has not received any communication from the Reserve Bank with regard to allegations of impropriety faced by its managing director and chief executive Chanda Kochhar.

"No communication to us, that is what we can say now," executive director NS Kannan told analysts over the customary post-earnings call on Monday, transcripts of which were posted on its website by the bank on Wednesday evening. He was replying to a specific question on whether there has been some communication from the regulator about the conflict of interest issue as reported in the media.

Kochhar is facing allegations of conflict of interest and a lack of disclosures. The bank board did not discuss the issue at its meeting on Monday, despite the controversy that Kochhar is engulfed in.

The board had come out with a statement supporting Kochhar on the eve of the news getting out in the media. This was followed by a slew of reports of more alleged wrongdoings and also of there being a division within the board as well. There are series of allegations of impropriety in ICICI Bank extending loans to some companies and enjoying reciprocal benefits.

It is alleged that family members Kochhar, including her husband Deepak Kochhar, got financial favours from the borrowers against the loans sanctioned by the bank. The issue is being investigated by multiple agencies including a filing of a priliminary enquiry by the CBI, and probes by the Income Tax Department and the ED.

Former Sebi chief M Damodaran had said one option for Kochhar was to step down till the investigation was over.

The issue of compromising corporate governance practices came to the fore when investor and whistleblower Arvind Gupta raked up the issue in March. He also alleged quid pro quo between Videocon Group and Kochhar as well as her family members with respect to extending a loan worth Rs 3,250 crore, which for the past many years have been NPA. It was alleged that the Videocon Group pumped money into NuPower Renewables, a firm owned by Deepak Kochhar, the husband of Chanda.

There are also allegations that NuPower got Rs 325 crore investment from Mauritius-based Firstland Holdings, a company owned by Nishant Kanodia, the son-in-law of Essar Group co-founder Ravi Ruia. The investments from Ruia's son-in-law's firm into NuPower started in December 2010. Incidentally, the same month ICICI Bank was the lead banker in a consortium of domestic banks that extended a USD 530 million to Essar Steel Minnesota on December 29, 2010. This loan too was later classified as bad loans.

The Reserve Bank in its 2016 investigation in the matter had raised questions over the ownership of the Mauritius-based entity, First Land Holding, which had invested Rs 325 crore in NuPower. Also, there was no clarity over the alleged Rs 64-crore loan (unsecured fully convertible debentures) given to NuPower by Supreme Energy, which was 99.99 percent owned by Videocon group chief Venugopal Dhoot at that time.

While Chanda Kochhar sat on the credit committee that approved the loan to Videocon, there are allegations of conflicts of interest in her husband's Singapore-based brother Rajiv Kochhar doing the debt-restructuring work on errant corporate borrowers from ICICI, including Videocon. The restructuring wasn't commissioned by the bank but by the borrowers.

Interestingly, the bank board expressed full faith in Kochhar, whose current tenure as CEO is ending March 31, 2019. It had reviewed credit approval processes and found them to be robust, according to a March 28 filing by the bank. Replying to another question, Kannan said the tenure of current chairman MK Sharma ends on June 30.
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