Ecobank Says Governance Lapses Addressed Amid Probe by Regulator

Ecobank Transnational Inc. said it has addressed lapses in governance and will make further recommendations to shareholders after Nigeria’s regulator probed fraud allegations against top executives.

The Nigerian Securities and Exchange Commission said last week that Ecobank’s weaknesses included its ability to oversee the bank’s management, ensure ethical behavior and safeguard the interests of shareholders. Ecobank has also commissioned the Lausanne, Switzerland-based International Institute for Management Development to review its corporate governance and expects a report by the end of this month, while the impact of previous lapses in internal control are being examined by EY, the Lome, Togo-based lender said in an e-mailed statement today.

When all the reports are received in the next few weeks, “the company will convene a meeting of its shareholders as implementation of some of the recommendations could require their approval,” Ecobank said. “Previous lapses in internal control and audit have been identified by the board and management and have been addressed.”

Nigeria’s SEC investigated Ecobank after Laurence do Rego, the former group executive director of risk and finance, told the regulator in August that Chief Executive Officer Thierry Tanoh and former Chairman Kolapo Lawson planned to sell assets below market value. Do Rego said she was pressured to write off debts owed by a business headed by Lawson and manipulate the bank’s results. Both Tanoh and Lawson deny any wrongdoing.

The lender should hold an extraordinary general meeting by the end of February to provide feedback to shareholders on the SEC audit, which was assisted by KPMG, the regulator said.

Lawson, who retired on Dec. 31, said in October that he was stepping down to end uncertainty and “media speculation” over Ecobank. The bank said in September that Tanoh would forgo his $1.14 million bonus for 2012 as the lender reviews corporate governance.

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