ICICI Bank CEO Chanda Kochhar’s fully paid indefinite leave raises questions

ICICI Bank CEO Chanda Kochhar’s salary will remain unchanged despite her going on an indefinite leave, a fact that has been flagged by proxy advisory firms as reflecting poorly on the lender’s corporate governance. There was no discussion on the remuneration of the CEO, an ICICI Bank executive said on condition of anonymity.

Kochhar, who is also ICICI Bank’s managing director, is facing conflict-of-interest allegations and will remain on leave until a committee investigating allegations of impropriety completes its work, the bank said in a statement on Monday.

“It’s tough to digest that Kochhar will be getting full compensation for the period when she is on leave. Yes, she is still the CEO but the board could have discussed her compensation for the period when she is not at work,” said Shriram Subramanian, founder and managing director of proxy firm InGovern Research.

In 2016-17, Kochhar’s salary, excluding a performance bonus, totalled Rs 5.58 crore. Additionally, she got a performance bonus of Rs 2.2 crore, all of which may not have been paid during the year, according to the company’s annual report. Her compensation for the previous fiscal year is not known.

An email sent to ICICI Bank seeking comment went unanswered.

Proxy advisers have also criticized the absence of two directors, including the government nominee and an independent director, from Monday’s crucial board meeting.

“It does not augur well when some board members recuse themselves from attending crucial board meetings,” said Subramanian.

ICICI Bank’s board on Monday named ICICI Prudential Life Insurance CEO Sandeep Bakhshi as whole-time director and chief operating officer, creating a new top position at the bank.

Lok Ranjan, who replaced Amit Agarwal as the government nominee on ICICI Bank’s board in April, did not attend the meeting, according to a second executive. The executive added that former Bank of Baroda chairman M.D. Mallya, who joined the board on 29 May, also did not attend the meeting.

Ranjan and Mallya declined to comment.

This is not the first time Ranjan has skipped crucial board meetings at ICICI Bank. A PTI report citing unidentified people said that the government’s nominee director is unlikely to attend the bank’s board meetings until investigation agencies come out with their findings on the conflict-of-interest allegations against Kochhar.

“The government wants to keep intervention to a minimum in the case of ICICI Bank,” said a third executive.

Link: Mint- June 20, 2018