January 30, 2019 / 1:07 PM / 5 months ago

UPDATE 2-ICICI Bank probe finds ex-CEO Kochhar violated internal policies

* Board said bank to revoke Kochhar’s financial entitlements

* Board will seek to reclaim bonuses paid from 2009-2018

* Enquiry found Kochhar in violation of fiduciary duties

* Kochhar said “utterly disappointed” by ICICI decision (Adds details from board report, comments, background)

By Promit Mukherjee and Chris Thomas

MUMBAI, Jan 30 (Reuters) - ICICI Bank Ltd said on Wednesday an investigation into former Chief Executive Chanda Kochhar found she had violated internal bank policies and the bank will seek to revoke her financial entitlements.

Kochhar, who worked at India’s third biggest lender for over three decades, rose through the ranks to become one of the most influential women bankers in the country before she retired last year.

But Kochhar has been dogged by allegations of conflict of interest and misconduct over the last two years and she sought early retirement from the bank in October.

ICICI Bank said in a statement it would seek to revoke Kochhar’s unpaid bonuses or increments, unexercised stock options and medical benefits following a board decision on Wednesday.

The board also planned to “clawback” all bonuses paid to Kochhar between April 2009 until March 2018, the statement said.

Kochhar said in response to the ICICI statement she was “utterly disappointed, hurt and shocked by the decision.”

“I reiterate that none of the credit decisions at the bank are unilateral ... the organisation design and structure obviate the possibility of conflict of interest,” she said.

ICICI’s decision follows the conclusion of an investigation led by former Supreme Court judge B. N. Srikrishna. This was opened last May.

The bank had earlier dismissed allegations against Kochhar after an earlier investigation in 2016. In March last year, the bank backed Kochhar, saying there was no issue of conflict of interest.

But the new enquiry into Kochhar’s conduct between April 2009 and March 2018 found that she was in “violation of the ICICI Bank Code of Conduct, its framework for dealing with conflict of interest and fiduciary duties,” the board said in the statement.

The report also found that Kochhar had failed to meet requirements with respect to annual disclosures required by ICICI Bank and found that her actions rendered bank’s processes ineffective, the board also said.

“The board’s move is a lesson for corporate India - both for a company’s board and its top executives,” Shriram Subramanian, founder of proxy advisory firm InGovern, said.

Last week, India’s federal investigating agency filed a case of criminal conspiracy and fraud against Kochhar, her husband and the managing director of Videocon Industries Ltd.

Separately, ICICI Bank earlier on Wednesday reported a 2.7 percent fall in third-quarter net profit on Wednesday to 16.05 billion rupees ($225.51 million) in the three months to Dec. 31, from 16.50 billion rupees a year earlier, missing analysts’ estimates by a wide margin.

$1 = 71.2920 Indian rupees Reporting by Promit Mukherjee in Mumbai and Chris Thomas in Bengaluru; Editing by Euan Rocha and Jane Merriman

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