A man talking on a mobile phone walks past signage for ICICI Bank Ltd. at the Bandra Kurla Complex in Mumbai. (Photographer: Dhiraj Singh/Bloomberg)  

SEBI May Seek Forensic Probe Of ICICI Bank Books, Disclosures

Markets watchdog SEBI is mulling a forensic examination of financial statements and disclosures made by ICICI Bank in the last few years amid a controversy over alleged conflict of interest involving the lender's Chief Executive Officer Chanda Kochhar and her husband.

The Securities and Exchange Board of India will also consult the Reserve Bank of India on the matter to avoid any intra-regulatory jurisdiction issues, top officials told PTI.

The forensic examination will focus on various disclosures made by the top private sector bank over the last few years, according to clarifications submitted by ICICI Bank to the stock exchanges in reply to queries made in the backdrop of a controversy regarding certain loans extended as part of a consortium to the Videocon Group.

Officials said the examination will also cover the disclosures made at the time of Kochhar’s appointment as CEO and Managing Director of the bank for the first time in 2009.

If required, SEBI will also seek details from the bank regarding various business dealings involving its top officials including Kochhar to look into alleged conflict of interest.

Also read: ICICI Bank Says No Individual Loans Given To Videocon Group’s Associate Firms

The capital markets watchdog has been looking into the matter for any possible disclosure and corporate governance-related lapses at ICICI Bank, but has not come across any concrete proof so far, the officials said.

A probe by RBI in 2016 also did not find any quid pro quo vis-a-vis ICICI Bank with regard to the loan extended to Videocon by the consortium which had the private sector lender as ‘a small member’, they added.

ICICI Bank landed in the controversy following allegations about a Rs 3,250-crore loan to the Videocon Group, whose chairman Venugopal Dhoot has been accused of having business dealings with NuPower Renewables, operated by Chanda Kochhar's husband Deepak Kochhar. Besides, questions have been raised about Avista Advisory, run by Chanda's brother-in-law Rajiv Kochhar, having advised some clients of ICICI Bank.

The bank however has denied all these allegations and its board has strongly defended the chief executive saying it has full faith and confidence in Kochhar.

Since RBI had already looked into the matter in 2016 and found no wrongdoing, the bank and its board members have exuded confidence that the company would get out of the controversy unscathed.

Kochhar has been known as one of the biggest driving forces behind the phenomenal growth of ICICI Bank, especially of its retail banking operations which got redefined following the entry of this private sector lender in the Indian banking space.

Subsequently, she has played a key role in expanding the bank's business in other areas and its diversification, including the digital push in recent years.

Also read: Why Whistleblower Arvind Gupta Questioned Videocon-ICICI Bank Dealings In 2016