Chanda to go on leave till investigation completes

DAINIK NATION BUREAU

To facilitate an independent investigation into charges of favouritism and impropriety ICICI Bank Chief Executive Officer Chanda Kochhar will proceed on leave while the group’s life insurance head Sandeep Bakhshi will run the lender as its Chief Operating Officer.

In a recent reshuffle, the bank’s executive director NS Kannan will become the chief executive of ICICI Prudential Life Insurance company subject to regulatory approvals, the bank said in a statement.

In line with the highest levels of governance and corporate standards, Chanda Kochhar has decided to go on leave till the completion of the enquiry as announced on May 30, 2018,” the bank said in a statement to exchanges. “The Board has noted and accepted this. During her period of leave, the COO will report to the Board.”

The bank also said that Bakhshi will report to Kochhar, who will continue in her role as MD & CEO of ICICI Bank. The board’s decision in getting Kochhar to step aside temporarily is a reversal of stance after nearly four months of backing her at the bank amidst a flurry of charges. It was only when the second round of charges on May. 3 from a whistle blower came to light, that the board decided to go for an independent investigation.

The latest arrangement, which appears to be temporary, is being done to facilitate a fair probe without any hindrance, the bank said.

Bakhshi has been appointed as Wholetime Director & Chief Operating Officer designate for a period of five years, subject to regulatory approvals. He will take over as the COO from June 19, 2018 and will be responsible for handling all the businesses and corporate centre functions at the Bank. All Executive Directors on the Board of ICICI Bank and the executive management will report to him during Kocchar’s absence.

The bank has been in focus due to conflict-of-interest allegations by a whistle blower against Kochhar over loans to Videocon Industries which she has denied. It was alleged that she did not disclose business dealings of her husband Deepak Kochhar with the Dhoots of Videocon.

But the bank’s board led by Chairman MK Sharma maintained that there has been no violation of any rule or there was no shortcoming in disclosures by Kochhar. Furthermore, the bank had said that the decision to give loan was taken by a committee that was at that point headed by chairman KV Kamath.

Justice Srikrishna is expected to probe into these instances and whether the business dealings between Kochhar’s husband Deepak Kochhar and Dhoots’of Videocon were disclosed as per the bank’s code of conduct.

The Securities and Exchange Board of India had also asked the bank and its CEO to respond to allegations related to violations of disclosure requirements under the securities law in the case involving Videocon and NuPower, owned by Deepak Kochhar.

ET

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