The board of ICICI Bank has ordered an independent inquiry which includes forensic audit, into new whistleblower allegations that CEO Chanda Kochhar violated the bank’s code of conduct in the Videocon loan case.
As per an ET report, the bank’s board is planning to complete the probe into allegations of conflict of interest against her while she is on her annual vacation. The inquiry will be overseen by the bank’s audit committee and will be headed by an “independent, credible person”.
As per people close to the development, the board met on May 29 and discussed appointing a law firm and a forensic auditor. The discussions were an outcome of a new complaint by a whistleblower which has forced the board to change its earlier stance of full support to Kochhar.
It is to be remembered that nearly two months before, ICICI Bank had dismissed all the allegations against Chanda Kochhar stating it as a mere rumor that Deepak Kochhar (spouse of Chanda Kochhar) had received investment in his organization from Videocon as quid pro quo for loans from ICICI Bank.
At that time, the board had dismissed all the speculations saying that in 2012 a consortium of 20 banks and financial institutions had sanctioned a debt consolidation programme for the group, and for its oil & gas capital expenditure plan amounting to about Rs 40,000 crore. ICICI Bank had sanctioned its share of around Rs 3,250 crore, which was less than 10 percent of the consortium’s total facility in April 2012.
The turnaround in the stance also comes close on the heels of a notice sent by SEBI which asked the bank to respond to allegations of violations of disclosure requirements under the securities law in the case involving Videocon Group and NuPower Renewables, a firm run by Chanda Kochhar’s husband Deepak Kochhar.
Both the complaint from the whistleblower and the notice from SEBI seems to have spurred the board into action to order the independent probe and put an and to the speculation once and for all. Meanwhile, Kochhar has firmly denied all charges of impropriety from the beginning of this issue.