ICICI Bank’s MD and CEO Chanda Kochhar, at the centre of a row over conflict of interest, has decided to go on leave till an independent probe into the allegations is completed. The bank has appointed chief executive of its life insurance arm Sandeep Bakhshi as whole-time director and Chief Operating Officer to run the bank during her absence.
Ms. Kochhar will continue as MD and CEO and Mr. Bakhshi will report to the board during her leave. All executive directors and the executive management will report to Mr. Bakhshi, the bank informed the stock exchanges following a meeting of its board on Monday. After Ms. Kochhar returns, Mr. Bakhshi will report to her.
“Mr. Bakhshi will be responsible for handling all the businesses and corporate centre functions at the bank,” the lender said. He will take charge as the COO on June 19 for a five-year term.
“In line with the highest levels of governance and corporate standards, Ms. Chanda Kochhar has decided to go on leave till the completion of the inquiry, as announced on May 30, 2018,” the bank said.
Mr. Bakshi, who started his career in 1986, has been replaced by the bank’s executive director N.S. Kannan at ICICI Prudential Life Insurance.
Last month, ICICI Bank said it would set up an inquiry committee headed by an independent and credible person to examine a anonymous whistleblower’s complaint against Ms. Kochhar for violating the code of conduct of the bank. , among others. It was also alleged that Ms. Kochhar had not adhered to legal and regulatory provisions relating to conflict of interest over a period of time; and that she had indulged in quid pro quo while dealing with certain borrowers.
B.N. Srikrishna, a former judge of the Supreme Court, will head the committee for the probe though other members of the panel are yet to be named. ICICI Bank has not disclosed the timeframe in which the committee will have to submit the report.
The controversy started in 2016 when Arvind Gupta, an investor, wrote letters to the Prime Minister’s Office, the then Reserve Bank of India governor Raghuram Rajan and other authorities, seeking inquiry into transactions between ICICI Bank, the Videocon Group and NuPower Renewables — a company promoted by Ms. Kochhar’s husband Deepak Kochhar in 2010.
It was alleged that a company related to Videocon group chairman Venugopal Dhoot invested ₹64 crore in NuPower in 2010 and later, the proprietorship of the company was transferred to a trust owned by Mr. Kochhar for ₹9 lakh after the Videocon Group received a loan of ₹3250 crore from ICICI Bank in 2012.