Chanda Kochhar has been at the center of controversy over the last few months. After fingers were pointed at her over a wrongfully approved a loan, the CEO of ICICI Bank has been reportedly asked to go on a leave for an indefinite period, after majority of the bank's independent directors learnt of a new whistleblower complaint. An enquiry headed by a former Supreme Court judge is said to begin soon. However, the bank's spokesperson denied the reports, calling Kochhar's absence her 'annual leave which was planned in advance'.
"The ICICI Bank Board denies having asked Ms. Chanda Kochhar to go on leave. She is on her annual leave which was planned in advance. Further, the Board denies that it has appointed any search committee to find her successor," the bank's statements reads.
However, reports also suggest that the probe was calculatingly placed at the time of Kochhar's annual leave so that she is not required to withhold her duties during the investigation.
Kochhar's leadership came under the scanner after she was accused of wrongfully approving a loan of Rs 3,250 crore to Videocon group, a portion of total Rs 40,000 crore that the company borrowed from 20 banks in total, in 2012. Venugopal Dhoot, the founder-MD of Videocon allegedly shares business interest with NuPower Renewables, owned by Kochhar's husband Deepak Kochhar.
The bank also received a notice from SEBI, demanding a response to allegations of conflicts of interest with the bank. The board, which earlier rubbished allegations on Kochhar, failed to address the issue with an internal body and hence has resorted to bringing a senior legal personnel on board.
“A new whistleblower complaint came 15-20 days back. It came to our notice as well. The bank’s board and top management first met and then the independent directors decided to meet separately. So the independent directors met on 29 May. The charges made against the bank and its CEO are quite harsh and the independent directors thought that such allegations cannot be dealt with internally," a source close to developments told Mint.