RBI guv Urjit Patel calls for more powers over state-run banks

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Briefing reporters here following a three-day workshop, State Bank of India Deputy MD and Risk Officer M.S. Shastri said the banks have chose to restrict SWIFT transactions to between 9 a.m. and 8 p.m.

Moreover, Patel suggested that it was internal processes at PNB that failed by allowing operational hazard to remain in place despite clear instructions, but hoped that the criminal investigation of frauds and attached penalties would serve as an effective deterrence. He pointed out that the RBI did not have the power to supersede public sector bank boards as they were not registered under the Companies Act like private sector banks.

Speaking at the inaugural lecture at Centre for Law & Economics, Centre for Banking & Financial Laws Gujarat National Law University, Gandhinagar, he said a few businesses were in cahoots with the lenders, and the banking regulator was working towards breaking this "unholy nexus".

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"RBI had identified - based on cyber-risk considerations - the exact source of operation hazard, through which we now understand that fraud has been perpetuated".

The governor said fraud was one of the biggest issues bothering RBI, with 86% of such cases taking place in the loans and advances portfolio of banks. While that can always be said ex post with any fraud, it is simply infeasible for a banking regulator to be in every nook and corner of banking activity to rule out frauds by "being there".

In particular, he said, the RBI had issued precise instructions via three circulars in 2016 to enable banks to eliminate the hazard. The central bank had also detected serious gaps in credit underwriting standards in a number of large-value frauds.

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Indicative of churning for elixir as part of the Samudra Manthan of the modern day Indian economy, Patel urged the promoters and banks to be on the sides of the Devas rather than the Asuras. "If we need to face the brickbats and be the Neelakantha consuming this poison, we will do so", said Patel. "It turns out, ex post, the bank had simply not done so", said Patel.

The RBI has been clamping down on the failure to recognise asset quality as non-performing as per its norms by requiring that banks, whose "divergence" exceeds by 15% of the true non-performing assets as per the norms, disclose the divergence. "As a result, the overall enforcement mechanism - at least until now - is not perceived to be a major deterrent to frauds relative to economic gains from fraud", he added.

RBI governor said on Wednesday that it had "extremely restricted expert" over state-run banks and called for changes in the wake of a $2 billion misrepresentation to give the controller similar forces to police state-run banks as it has over private moneylenders. All these are possible in the case of private banks. A report in The Economic Times claims that the ministry has examined the provisions of the Banking Regulation Act closely and drawn up a list of as many as 13 clauses that empower the central bank to take action against public sector banks even as the law constrains the government from acting in order to ensure autonomy of banks.

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