A law firm whose inquiry in 2016 found no evidence of nepotism against former ICICI Bank Chief Executive Officer Chanda Kochhar has withdrawn its earlier report, the bank said on Tuesday. Kochhar stepped down from her role on October 4, months after the allegations resurfaced in media reports.
The bank had asked the law firm – which it did not identify – to investigate allegations against Kochhar but closed the matter in December 2016 after the inquiry found nothing amiss. After the allegations came up again this year, the bank first cited the inquiry to express confidence in Kochhar, but on getting more information, announced a fresh inquiry in May 2018, the lender said in a filing to stock exchanges.
On being informed about the fresh inquiry, the law firm told the bank its earlier report would no longer be valid, the filing said. The investigation in 2016 had followed a media report that alleged nepotism and conflict of interest on the part of Kochhar in sanctioning loans to a company.
The law firm involved was Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas, several reports said, quoting unidentified officials.
Kochchar’s exit came after questions were raised over a Rs 3,250-crore loan that the bank sanctioned to the Videocon Group in 2012. Six months after the company received the loan, Videocon Group CEO Venugopal Dhoot allegedly provided crores of rupees to NuPower Renewables, which was founded by Chanda Kochhar’s husband Deepak Kochhar. The Videocon loan from ICICI Bank was part of the Rs 40,000-crore loan that it secured from a consortium of 20 banks.
In March, the Central Bureau of Investigation initiated a preliminary inquiry to determine whether the bank had violated any law in sanctioning the loan. The board had then backed Kochhar, claiming that “malicious and unfounded rumours” were being spread to “malign the bank”. However, it announced the inquiry on May 30 after an anonymous whistleblower levelled allegations against Chanda Kochhar. Kochhar was sent on leave weeks later, and she chose retirement earlier this month. Sandeep Bakhshi replaced her.
Retired Supreme Court judge BN Srikrishna is investigating charges of impropriety against Kochhar.