Ecobank denies misconduct amid corporate governance review

Ecobank Transnational’s chief executive Thierry Tanoh denied allegations of fraud by a senior manager.

"The bank’s governance norms are such today that what has been said couldn’t have been done," Tanoh said in an interview last week in Paris. "We are doing a review because it’s time also for us to look at our governance and keep improving it," he said of the bank that is a strategic partner with South African retail bank, Nedbank. 


Nigeria’s Securities and Exchange Commission is investigating Ecobank’s governance after executive director of risk and finance, Laurence do Rego, told the regulator last month that Tanoh and Chairman Kolapo Lawson planned to sell some assets below market value. Do Rego has also said she had been pressured to write off debts owed by a business headed by Lawson and manipulate the bank’s results in 2012.


Ecobank said earlier in September that Tanoh will forgo a $1.14-million bonus for 2012 as the Lome, Togo-based lender appointed external advisers to review its corporate governance. Ecobank has made no dismissals "for now," he said.


Lawson, Ecobank’s chairman since 2009, is also chairman of Acorn Petroleum and Agbara Estates, according to Ecobank’s 2012 annual report. Lawson has been an Ecobank’s non-executive director since 1993, according to the annual report, and also chief executive officer of a diversified industrial and trading group with operations in the UK and West Africa.


'Open dialogue'
​Tanoh joined Ecobank in July 2012 as "designate chief executive" to work with former chief executive Arnold Epke for the rest of the year and "ensure a smooth and succesful transition," Ecobank said in its annual report. Tanoh took over after Epke started his retirement last year.


"I wholeheartedly endorse Mr Tanoh’s commitment to a more open dialogue with shareholders," Lawson said in the chairperson’s statement in the annual report.


Founded in 1985, Ecobank operates in France and 34 African countries, more than any other lender. It also has representative offices in Beijing, Dubai, Johannesburg, London and Luanda, Angola. The bank had $21-billion (R211.64-billion) in assets at the end of June. – Bloomberg and staff reporter

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