Mumbai: Ruling out any action against chief executive officer and managing director Chanda Kochhar, ICICI Bank Ltd’s non-executive chairman M.K. Sharma said that the lender’s board is unlikely to discuss the allegations of impropriety against Kochhar at its board meeting on 27 April to consider annual earnings.
The bank’s board will not act unless the findings of the preliminary probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) suggest any wrongdoing, Sharma said in an interview on Wednesday.
In response to a question on whether Kochhar has expressed a desire to step down from her responsibilities at India’s second largest private sector bank in the wake of the CBI investigation, Sharma said, “She has not offered (to do so) and neither has the board obliquely asked her (to do) that. In the first meeting of independent directors, the issue was discussed and she chose to recuse."
“Nothing can be worse for a CEO to be leaving in such a scenario. I don’t think people recognize that these issues should be dealt on facts and not through speculation," Sharma said.
Stating that the matter was first brought to the board’s notice in 2016 and all the regulators had prior information about it, Sharma said “I don’t know if it is about diverting attention from other things such as Nirav Modi and Gitanjali Gems issues. All the regulators had this information in 2016. I do not see any reason for having a fresh look again and revive interest in the issue."
“You need to understand that this transaction (the loan to Videocon group) happened in 2012. Dhoot (Videocon group chairman Venugopal Dhoot) invested in the company in 2008 and there is a clear gap of four years," Sharma added.
Sharma’s statements come amid allegations that ICICI Bank under Kochhar disbursed loans to the Videocon group without following strict governance rules.
CBI has registered a preliminary enquiry to probe an alleged nexus between Chanda Kochhar’s husband Deepak and Videocon.
On 28 March, the lender’s board had issued a statement reposing its confidence in the corporate governance practices of the company and the integrity of Kochhar, which have come under scrutiny following the Videocon controversy.
“All the complaints have been looked at. The Central Bureau of Investigation is looking at some of the matter. We are cooperating with them. They are at a better position to look at it from several angles. We will only be able to look at it from our perspective," Sharma said.
ICICI Bank had said on 28 March in a filing to the stock exchanges that it had given the loan to Videocon group as part of a consortium of lenders and was not even the lead bank of this group.
“They can look at Mr Kochhar, Videocon and then they can take a call. We will provide best of assistance and support," he added.
“Our exposure is less than 8.5% with common interest rate, common tenure. So, I cannot fathom a quid pro quo," Sharma said.
Alekh Archana contributed to this story.