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IPO scam derails banks' US plans

January 17, 2006 10:10 IST

The IPO scam has hurt ICICI Bank and the State Bank of India's US plans.

"The US Federal Reserve has delayed clearing ICICI Bank's application for entering the US and the SBI's application for expanding operations, citing poor anti-money laundering practices in India. The IPO scam has only strengthened the US view," banking sources said.

The Securities and Exchange Board of India, which stumbled upon the scam while examining allotments made in the Yes Bank IPO, has blamed banks for derailing the "tried and tested" public issue allotment process.

Sebi to probe IPO records of bankers

Sebi has said the IPO scam could not have occurred if banks had followed the know-your-customer norms, which are used globally to check funding of terrorism. The US is pushing these norms the world over.

In 2004, Indian banks were asked to formulate a customer acceptance policy and identification procedure before opening accounts. Banks also need to slot customers according to risks perceived.

The sources said ICICI Bank's proposed foray into the US had been well received by the US Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, but its plans were held up at the US Federal Reserve, which is not sure about India's anti-money laundering measures.

The SBI has branches in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and Washington DC, and plans to expand operations.

The Reserve Bank of India has been examining banks' compliance with the know-your-customer norms in order to assess how effective the anti-money laundering measures are. But the RBI was now upset with the extent of misuse of the banking system, the sources said.

The RBI issued a statement last week naming Bharat Overseas Bank as the one which funded "IPOs through multiple accounts" and asked all banks involved in the irregularities to explain their conduct.

The after effects

The Plan

  • ICICI Bank plans US foray, while SBI wants to expand its US operations

Why they were not allowed to do so

  • Poor anti-money laundering practices in India
  • Benami depository and bank accounts show gross disregard for know-your-customer norms

Why are KYC norms important

  • Such norms are part of global anti-money laundering efforts to check the funding of terrorist activities

What do the norms require

  • Verification of customers' identities and addresses by banks before the opening of accounts
  • Formulation of a policy for customer identification procedure
  • Grading them into low, medium and high risk categories
  • ICICI Bank and SBI's current overseas addresses
  • ICICI Bank is present in Canada, UK, Russia, Singapore, Sri Lanka and West Asia
  • SBI operates across continents. In the US, it has branches in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and Washington
Rajendra Palande in Mumbai