The chief of ICICI Bank, the country's largest private-sector lender, is facing speculation about nepotism and corruption over loans to the Dhoot family-promoted Videocon.
While the board of the lender has come out in support of bank's MD & CEO Chanda Kochhar, concerns still linger.
Let's take a look at the entire controversy surrounding the bank.
What's the issue all about?
The issue dates back to 2008 when Videocon's founder Venugopal Dhoot decided to start a company with Deepak Kochhar, husband of Chanda Kochhar, and two of her relatives.
Dhoot held 50 percent stake in the new company, called NuPower Renewables, while Kocchar and her family held the other half.
In March 2010, NuPower got a loan of Rs 64 crore from a company called Supreme Energy, owned by Dhoot and then transferred the latter's ownership to a trust headed by Deepak Kochhar for just Rs 9 lakh, according to The Indian Express.
So is there a conflict of interest?
The questions of propriety and conflict of interest are being raised as the transfer of the company to Deepak Kochchar happened six months after the Videocon got a loan of Rs 3,250 crore from ICICI Bank, the report by The Indian Express claims.
Almost 86 percent of that loan remains unpaid and Videocon account was declared a non-performing asset in 2017.
What is ICICI Bank saying?
"The board desires to clarify that none of the investors of NuPower Renewables are borrowers of ICICI Bank," it said in a statement.
The lender was one among a consortium of banks that gave loans to Videocon.
"ICICI Bank was not the lead bank for this consortium and the bank only sanctioned its share of facilities aggregating approximately Rs 3,250 crore, which was less than 10 percent of the total consortium facility in April 2012," the bank said.
"The board concluded that there is no question or scope of any favoritism, nepotism or quid pro quo."
When International Business Times asked ICICI Bank to respond to media reports, the lender did not comment beyond what it had already stated in its Wednesday's statement.
Full statement of ICICI Bank
Here is the full text of the ICICI Bank statement:
There have been some malicious and unfounded rumours in the past few days casting insinuations on ICICI Bank Ltd. and its MD & CEO. Similar rumours had first surfaced in the mid-2016 and had been appropriately responded to. Nevertheless these have resurfaced in the recent past to malign the Bank.
In that context, the Board of ICICI Bank today reviewed the internal processes of the Bank and also the details of the exposure to the Videocon group.
1. The Board has noted that the Bank has a well-structured and standardised credit approval process, where multiple independent departments are involved in providing independent credit risk rating, doing credit appraisal, credit approvals and monitoring the proposals. The Bank's credit approval authorisation framework is laid down by the Board of Directors. The larger exposures are approved by the Credit Committee of the Board. The majority of Credit Committee members are independent directors of the Bank. The Chairman of the Credit Committee, till as late as June 2015, was always a non-Executive Director. Based on the above, it can be concluded that there are adequate checks and balances in loan appraisal, rating and approval processes within the Bank, both from the control as well as from a governance perspective.
Given this architecture, no individual employee, whatever may be his or her position, has the ability to influence the credit decision at the Bank.
2. With regard to ICICI Bank's current exposure to Videocon group, the Board also recorded that:
- In 2012, a consortium of over 20 banks and financial institutions sanctioned facilities to the Videocon group (Videocon Industries Ltd. and 12 of its subsidiaries/ associates as co-obligors) for a debt consolidation programme and for the group's oil and gas capital expenditure programme aggregating approximately Rs. 40,000 crore.
- ICICI Bank's current exposure to the Videocon group is part of this syndicated consortium arrangement.
- ICICI Bank was not the lead bank for this consortium and the Bank only sanctioned its share of facilities aggregating approximately Rs. 3250 crore which was less than 10% of the total consortium facility in April 2012.
- After the preparation of the Information Memorandum and the initial due diligence for the financing programme by the lead arrangers and after the sanction of the facilities by the lead bank, the Credit Committee of ICICI Bank in 2012 sanctioned its share of facilities in the syndicated arrangement to the Videocon group.
- This Committee was chaired by the then Chairman of ICICI Bank and it included independent and working Directors of the Bank. It is important to note that Ms. Chanda Kochhar was not the Chairperson of this Committee.
- The Terms and Conditions offered for these loans are similar to those offered by the other banks in the consortium, ruling out the possibility of any special benefit to the borrower by ICICI Bank.
- It is important to note here that all banks including ICICI Bank disbursed the Rupee Term Loan into the common escrow pool account being maintained for this purpose by the lead bank.
- ICICI Bank's share of the banking sector's exposure to the Videocon group was less than 10% while around 90% of the loans were sanctioned by other banks and financial institutions.
Hence the Board concluded that there is no question or scope of any favouritism, nepotism or quid-pro-quo.
3. The Bank desires to clarify that none of the investors of NuPower Renewables are borrowers of ICICI Bank.
4. ICICI Bank is regulated and supervised by various regulatory bodies and authorities. In that context the Bank receives various queries from time to time which are appropriately responded to.
On looking at all the above facts, the Board has come to the conclusion that there is no question of any quid pro quo/ nepotism/ conflict of interest as is being alleged in various rumours. The Board has full confidence and reposes full faith in the Bank's MD & CEO, Ms. Chanda Kochhar. The Board also commends the entire management team under the leadership of the MD & CEO for their hard work and dedication. We would urge you not to be misled by these rumours which are being spread to malign the Bank and its top management.
So was Chanda Kocchar not involved in sanctioning loan to Videocon?
It's still not clear but according to the bank, KV Kamath was part of the credit committee that sanctioned the loan.
"This committee was chaired by the then chairman of ICICI Bank and it included independent and working directors of the bank. It is important to note that Chanda Kochhar was not the chairperson of this committee," the bank said.