The embattled and troubled ICICI Bank in a late filing with the stock exchange yesterday, informed that its MD/CEO Ms. Chanda Kochhar has decided to go on leave, until the impending probe against her, by Justice (Retd.) B. N. Srikrishna is completed. ICICI says that she has chosen to do so, in order to uphold the highest standards of governance and corporate standards. The markets, which are fed up with this sordid ICICI saga cheered the move and the price of the ICICI share increased by 4% in a single day. In fact whenever there has been a rumour of her exit/going on leave in the past, the share price of ICICI bank has gone up in bated expectation. We truly see no reason to cheer or give any brownie points to ICICI Bank or its CEO for her going on leave. It is not voluntary or bonafide and is an utter farce, because she continues to be the unquestioned boss of ICICI Bank, with no restraint on her powers, when on leave.
There are several reasons which raise doubts about the very bonafides of this move and they are :-
- This is a typical case of too little, too late. Corporate governance and standards have been already mutilated and trampled by ICICI and its CEO. This move would have been applauded if it was made on a clean slate in 2016, but not now, when the murky affair is out in the open and is under investigation by a host of authorities, including the CBI/SEBI/ITD/SEC etc.
- ICICI Bank and its CEO have been pushed in a corner, not by public disapproval (which they have been indifferent to), but because of the heat of investigation and the vociferous demands of its key shareholders, who have started exiting the scrip due to poor corporate governance at ICICI.
- Since Chanda Kochhar remains the CEO/MD and the newly appointed COO Sandeep Bakshi will be reporting to her, the move is an utter farce. She is still the boss calling the shots and nothing has changed at all. The entire ICICI official machinery and records remain at her disposal. It’s a sheer corporate farce which is not acceptable.
- Such a belated move lacks substance. It is a case of mere tokenism. With such a huge erosion of ICICI’s image, it faces structural damage which needs much more serious damage control and image repair measure, which this one is certainly not.
- Uncertainty at ICICI continues and that is neither good for the bank, nor its employees or shareholders.
To us, it is not a voluntary move and it has not been made with clean hands or intent. The shabby saga continues, and does not help ICICI at all.