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Whistleblower: SEC directs Ecobank to reinstate former Executive Director

By The Citizen
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The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has directed Ecobank Transnational Incorporated to reinstate Laurence do Rego, the former executive director of Risk and Finance who alleged senior management fraud.

'When the news broke, we did write to them,' said a spokesman for SEC, Obi Adindu, referring to the January 8 statement from Ecobank that do Rego was no longer employed by the Lome, Togo-based lender.

'We have formally written to Ecobank to indicate that the action negated the initial position that we had expressed,' he said in a telephone interview on Wednesday from Abuja.

The Nigerian regulator had probed Ecobank after do Rego told SEC in August that former Chairman Kolapo Lawson and Chief Executive Officer Thierry Tanoh planned to sell the company's assets below the market value.

Do Rego said she had been pressured to write off debts owed by a business headed by Lawson and manipulate the bank's results last year. Both Tanoh and Lawson deny any wrongdoing.

A SEC review of Ecobank last month found 'inadequate transparency in the recruitment procedures and mechanisms for board members and executive staff members,' the Abuja-based regulator said January 10.

It asked Ecobank to appoint a 'substantive' chairman and develop a one-year plan to address the governance issues.

The Chief Executive Officer, ETI, Tanoh, could quit next month after reports that senior executives had ask ed him to step down, the New York-based DaMina Advisors LLP said.

A Bloomberg report quoted DaMina as saying in an emailed note on Monday that Tanoh might resign at an extraordinary shareholders meeting of the bank on March 3, where it hoped to adopt a plan for recommendations on corporate governance made by the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Four executives, led by Deputy Group Chief Executive Officer, Albert Essien, wrote to the Interim Chairman Andre Siaka on February 11 requesting Tanoh to step down.

'Tanoh has no sensible option but to quickly resign,' said the Managing Director at DaMina, a frontier-market risk adviser, Sebastian Spio-Garbrah.