Nigerian Securities and Exchange Commission investigating allegations of fraud in one of Africa’s largest banking institutions
The local Securities and Exchange Commission is investigating Nigeria’s Ecobank over allegations of fraud and misconduct. The bank’s governance strategy is under scrutiny after executives revealed the CEO planned to sell some assets below market value. It has also been suggested that executives were encouraged to write-off debt owed by a business owned by Ecobank’s chairman, and to alter the bank’s results for 2012. Investigations began in September after executive director of risk and finance Laurence do Rego denounced CEO Thierry Tanoh and chairman Kolapo Lawson to the authorities.
In response to do Rego’s allegations, Tanoh told Bloomberg that “the bank’s governance norms are such today that what has been said couldn’t have been done. We are doing a review because it’s time also for us to look at our governance and keep improving it.”
Ecobank announced in September, in the wake of do Rego’s allegations, that Tanoh would be forfeiting a $1.14m bonus for 2012, and it sought to appoint outside advisers to review corporate governance policies and possible shortcomings. Tanoh and Lawson have denied any wrongdoing.
The Nigerian Securities and Exchange Commission has confirmed it is actively investigating Do Rego’s allegations, as well as possible breaches of governance at Ecobank. Jeremy Reynolds, a spokesman for Togo-based Ecobank has said the do Rego has met with the board to discuss her allegations and that though Ecobank does not support her claims “she has the opportunity to elaborate and present her evidence to the board,” he hold Bloomberg in an e-mail in September. Reynold’s also revealed that do Rego has been suspended from her duties while Ecobank looks into a possible false claim made about her qualifications when she first joined the bank over a decade ago.
Ecobank is one of the largest pan-Asian banking institutions, with branches in over 34 countries in the continent as well as in France. As of the end of June, it had over $21bn of assets under management. Tanoh joined the bank in 2012, replacing longstanding CEO Arnold Epke who retired recently. Lawson has been chairman since 2009 as well as a non-executive director since 1993.