THE RBI has indicated that it has not yet given a clean chit to ICICI Bank, and its MD and CEO Chanda Kochhar, on the issue of conflict of interest, quid pro quo and corporate governance violations while extending loans.
Responding to a query from The Indian Express under the Right To Information (RTI) Act on the action taken against ICICI Bank and Chanda Kochhar, the central bank said: “RBI is engaged with ICICI Bank in the matter and investigations by external agencies in the matter have not attained finality. As such, the disclosure at this stage of information sought is likely to harm the competitive position of the bank and may also impede the process of investigation.”
Chanda Kochhar is on leave pending an independent investigation by retired Supreme Court judge, Justice B N Srikrishna, into various allegations against her and the bank.
On March 29, The Indian Express reported that Videocon promoter Venugopal Dhoot provided a loan of Rs 64 crore to NuPower Renewables Pvt Ltd (NRPL), a firm he had set up with Chanda Kochhar’s husband and two relatives six months after the business group got Rs 3,250 crore as loan from ICICI Bank in 2012.
Dhoot transferred proprietorship of the company to a trust owned by Deepak Kochhar for Rs 9 lakh, six months after he received the loan from ICICI Bank. The Videocon account was declared an NPA or a bad loan in 2017.
The bank’s board had initially backed Chanda Kocchar. However, on May 30, while instituting an enquiry into a new complaint against her, the board said the probe will be headed by an “independent and credible person” and would be “comprehensive”.
Market regulator SEBI, which had issued showcause notices to ICICI Bank and Chanda Kochhar, received replies from both recently. Kochhar and the bank stated that they were not aware of the relationship between Chanda Kochhar’s husband Deepak Kochhar and the Videocon group. Sebi is likely to begin adjudication proceedings soon.
In April, the RBI had imposed a penalty of Rs 58.9 crore on ICICI Bank for violating the central bank’s guidelines governing treasury operations. The RBI’s penalty for violation of rules in the banking sector normally doesn’t exceed Rs 5 crore.
The RBI had said the penalty was imposed for non-compliance with directions on direct sale of securities from its HTM (held-to-maturity) portfolio and its disclosure. It said the action was based on deficiencies in regulatory compliance and was not intended to pronounce upon the validity of any transaction or agreement entered into by the bank with its customers.
For the June quarter, the bank reported its first loss since 2001 as it provided more for bad loans and faced treasury losses. On a standalone basis, the bank reported Rs 120 crore of net loss for the June quarter against a net profit of Rs 2,049 crore a year ago.
The RBI has been tough against erring private banks, having refused to approve a third three-year term for Axis Bank MD and CEO Shikha Sharma. It has not yet approved a fresh term for Yes Bank MD Rana Kapoor, whose term ended on August 31, 2018, and allowed him to continue till further notice. The RBI also refused to clear the preferential issue of Kotak Mahindra Bank for dilution of the promoters’ stake.