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In Syndicate ‘CMD-bribe’ Bank, a father made way for daughter on the board

Syndicate Bank is currently in the eye of a storm after its chairman S K Jain was arrested for accepting bribe.

Bhupinder Singh Suri daughter Jasleenn.  Source: Tashi Tobgyal Bhupinder Singh Suri daughter Jasleenn. Source: Tashi Tobgyal

Less than three weeks after the father relinquished his directorship, the daughter was appointed on the board. This is not the case of the promoters of a private, family-owned enterprise, where such practices are commonplace, but something that unfolded on the board of the state-owned Syndicate Bank two years ago.

On July 17, 2012, the Bangalore-based bank had announced the appointment of Jasleenn Suri as a director on its board. Her father, Bhupinder Singh Suri, who had served as a director on the board for six years, vacated his seat just 20 days earlier on June 26, 2012. Put together, the father-daughter duo have held the post of director on the board of Syndicate Bank for more than eight years now. Both father and daughter were appointed as shareholder directors in the bank, by the government — which has a holding of 67.39 per cent stake in the bank.

Syndicate Bank is currently in the eye of a storm after its chairman S K Jain was arrested for accepting bribe.

On how they qualified for the job, the details on the bank’s website are sketchy. Bhupinder Singh Suri owns the Gymkhana Service Station on Race Course road in New Delhi, right across the Prime Minister’s residence. Jasleenn claims to have done her MBA from Amity Business School in Noida, while her profile on the Syndicate Bank website says, “She has diversified exposure of over 15 years in varied sectors spanning across Retail & Investment Banking, Real Estate, Petroleum and Retail.

She was involved in planning and implementation of the BPCL’s – New Generation Retail Outlet & concept of convenience stores under the Brand Name In & Out.”

An email sent to Jasleenn Suri seeking information about her appointment did not elicit any response. The Syndicate Bank too did not respond to an email seeking details about her appointment. The bank spokesperson merely said, “Ms Jasleenn Suri was elected as a Shareholder Director under Section 9 (3) (i) of the Banking Companies (Acquisition & Transfer of Undertaking) Act 1970 on 17.07.2012 and assumed charge on 18.07.2012.”

This is not the only appointment on the board that appears to be in violation of corporate governance rules. There are two directors on the board of Syndicate Bank who have been Congress workers.

C R Naseer Ahamed, a district Congress vice-president in Davangere, was appointed as a director on the board of the bank in February 2013. Jagdish Raj Shrimali who served on the board of Syndicate Bank till July 28, 2014 has also been an active Congress worker and associated with its labour wing — the Indian National Trade Union Congress.

The practice of appointing political workers on the board of a bank is not unique to Syndicate Bank but seems to be a broader trend across PSU banks. The Union bank of India, for instance, has appointed Anusuiya Sharma, an AICC member and incharge of UP Women’s Congress Committee, on its board.

The Corporation Bank board has Bonam Venkata Bhaskar, joint secretary of the Andhra Pradesh Congress Committee while the Allahabad Bank board has Ajay Shukla, member of the UP Congress Committee. Shukla was appointed in August 2013. Sanjay Maken, brother of former union minister Ajay Maken, is on the board of Indian Bank. He is, however, a practising chartered accountant.

In March 2014, when the United Bank of India came under the scanner for its rising NPAs, The Indian Express had reported that over the previous four years, the bank had appointed a politician, a media manager and a businessman on its board. Of them Srenik Sett, who served on the board for three years between October 6, 2010 and October 5, 2013, was the campaign manager for former finance minister Pranab Mukherjee in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections from Jangipur constituency in West Bengal.

Once Mukherjee became the finance minister in the UPA-II government, the ministry appointed Sett to the board of directors of UBI in 2010. Another director, Hiranya Bora, who served on the board of UBI for three years till April 2014, is a Congress leader from Assam.

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