Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Ghana: Ecobank CEO sacked

Ghana's Albert Essien has been appointed as the new CEO of Ecobank Transnational Incorporated, after a special 11 March meeting of the executive board in Cameroon sacked Thierry Tanoh. This follows nine months of turmoil, with mounting criticism of the governance standards under Tanoh's management.

The board also reinstated the Finance Director Laurence do Rego, who had alerted regional regulators about the abuses at the bank. Tanoh sacked Do Rego in January but was ordered to reinstate her immediately by Nigeria's Security and Exchange Commission; he chose to ignore the directive.

Tanoh survived Ecobank shareholders’ extraordinary general meeting in Lome on 3 March. But opposition to his continuing leadership of the bank was growing, with calls from both senior Ecobank officials and major shareholders, including South Africa’s state-owned Public Investment Corporation, for Tanoh to step down. South Africa’s Nedbank said that Tanoh’s tenure has made it question whether to convert Ecobank indebtedness into Ecobank stock later this year.

Details of the high-tension board meeting aside - other than noting that Ecobank will keep a 12-member board rather than institute a seven-member interim board, and amend its articles of association to limit certain transactions exceeding a specified portion of the bank’s “book” value - the Ecobank saga is also notable because of the significant pan-African or South African influence in affairs.

The Ecobank matter illustrates how African investors can pressure major operators such as the pan-African Ecobank. As well as South African pressure, Nigeria's SEC investigated governance matters in the bank with the help of KPMG auditors and played a key role in easing out both Tanoh and his ally, the former chairman Kolapo Lawson, who resigned late last year. 

For more news and expert analysis about Ghana, please see Ghana Politics & Security.

© 2014 Menas Associates

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