Ecobank CEO Denies Misconduct Amid Corporate Governance Review

Ecobank Transnational Inc. (ETI)’s Chief Executive Officer 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.”

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 Plc and Agbara Estates Ltd., 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 U.K. and West Africa.

Tanoh joined Ecobank in July, 2012 as “designate CEO” to work with former CEO 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 whole-heartedly endorse Mr Tanoh’s commitment to a more open dialogue with shareholders,” Lawson said in the chairman’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 in assets at the end of June.

To contact the reporter on this story: Fabio Benedetti-Valentini in Paris at fabiobv@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Dale Crofts at dcrofts@bloomberg.net; Frank Connelly at fconnelly@bloomberg.net;

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