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ICICI Bank: Whistleblower’s Charges Against 31 Loan Accounts

ICICI Bank on Friday said the anonymous complaint received by it in March 2018 alleged irregularities in the conduct of 31 loan accounts with an outstanding of Rs 6,082 crore, representing over 1% of the bank’s gross loans, including a charge of incorrect asset classification. An enquiry carried out under the supervision of the audit committee of the bank’s board found that in some of the accounts there were transactions which may have delayed their classification in the non-performing asset (NPA) category.

At the end of March 2018, these accounts constituted 1.1% of gross loans. The provision coverage (including prudential/ technical write-offs) for these accounts was 50%.

In a regulatory notification, the bank said the charges of incorrect accounting of interest income and overvaluation of security, also brought by the whistleblower, did not stand scrutiny.

“Based on the procedures performed in the enquiry, the allegations relating to incorrect accounting of interest income and NPA recoveries as fees, and overvaluation of security for corporate loans, were not borne out. In certain accounts, transactions were observed that may have delayed the classification of the account as nonperforming under Indian GAAP (generally accepted accounting principles) in earlier years,” the notification said.

All of these loans are fully classified as non-performing, with provisions made as per applicable norms, the notification said, adding that most of them were classified as such between FY12 and FY17. Two of the accounts were classified as NPA by December 31, 2017. “Thus, all these loans had been classified as non-performing prior to the Bank becoming aware of the complaint,” the bank said in the notification.

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ICICI Bank CEO and managing director Chanda Kochhar decided on Monday to go on leave, stepping aside while justice B Srikrishna conducts an investigation into whether there was a conflict of interest in loans given by the private lender to the Videocon Group. The need for the probe has arisen following allegations Kochhar’s husband Deepak Kochhar benefited financially through his company Nupower Renewables from the business relationship between ICICI Bank and the Videocon Group. Investigative agencies, including the Enforcement Directorate and the Central Bureau of Investigation have been pursuing an enquiry into the matter.

After a long meet on Monday, the ICICI Bank board appointed Sandeep Bakhshi, CEO and managing director of ICICI Prudential Life, as whole-time director and chief operating officer (COO)-designate for a period of five years.

Bakhshi will report to Chanda Kochhar and depending on when the regulatory approvals come through, will take over as COO from June 19 or later.

Corporate experts said the bank’s board had come up with a face-saving arrangement for Kochhar and one that would allow her to step down if found guilty of violating any rules.

 

 

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