The buzz did the rounds for about two years: ICICI Bank’s then MD & CEO Chanda Kochhar was being accused of conflict of interest and quid-pro-quo in a bank loan to the Videocon group through a whistle-blower complaint.
In February, the Central Bureau of Investigation launched a preliminary enquiry into the allegations. Kochhar denied the allegations, following which the bank board expressed full support for its CEO and accepted her explanation that no ethical lines had been crossed in the loan ICICI Bank extended to Videocon, the promoter of which had business dealings with Kochhar’s husband. Over the next few months, the matter was investigated by multiple authorities including the income tax department and the Securities Exchange Board of India (Sebi).
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But the matter refused to die down. In May, the bank set up an internal probe against Kochhar headed by former Supreme Court judge B N Srikrishna after a second whistle-blower complaint made the same allegations. In June, the bank announced that Kochhar would go on leave till the probe is completed and it appointed Sandeep Bakhshi as its chief operating officer and interim CEO. The bank posted its first quarterly loss since listing in July and the bank’s August filing to the US markets regulator Securities and Exchange Commission said the allegations against Kochhar could severely impact the bank’s ability to do business.
Shareholders expressed their discontent over Kochhar in the bank’s annual general meeting in September. In October, Bakhshi officially took charge as CEO, as Kochhar abruptly sought early retirement. The bank said the probe into Kochhar will continue. With the Sebi investigation also pending, this saga is still far from over.