* Laurence do Rego suspended last August, left in January
* Ecobank has denied do Rego allegations over 2012 results
By Tim Cocks and Matthew Mpoke Bigg
LAGOS/ACCRA, Feb 19 Nigeria's financial watchdog
told pan-African lender Ecobank to reinstate its former
finance director pending the result of a probe into her
allegations of breaches in corporate governance rules, the
regulator said on Wednesday.
The Securities and Exchange Commission's (SEC) order piles
more pressure on the leadership of one of sub-Saharan Africa's
largest financial institutions a week after top executives
called for the resignation of Chief Executive Thierry
Analysts said it could also renew concerns among
shareholders about how the bank is run ahead of an extraordinary
general meeting on March 3 that will vote on governance reforms.
An Ecobank spokesman said the bank had received a letter
from the SEC regarding its former finance director, Laurence do
Rego, but it declined to comment further.
A letter exchange between Ecobank and the SEC seen by
Reuters on Wednesday shows the regulator had already told the
lender to reinstate her in a letter dated Jan. 9. Tanoh replied
five days later that fulfilling this demand would be criminal
under the law in Togo, the location of Ecobank's head office.
Do Rego was not available for comment.
The SEC began an investigation last year after do Rego told
regulators she was pressured to misstate 2012 financial results.
Ecobank denies her allegations.
The bank said she had left in a brief statement in January
that gave no details. Do Rego was in a dispute over her
professional qualifications and had been suspended prior to
making the allegations, according to bank officials.
Do Rego did not comment on the reason for her departure at
the time and did not respond to a similar request for comment on
SEC spokesman Obi Adindu said on Wednesday the request for
do Rego's reinstatement was in line with the regulator's rules.
"It's the whistleblower protection element," he said.
Do Rego should not have left the bank before the outcome of
the SEC's investigation, he said.
The bank operates in 33 African countries and is listed in
Nigeria, Ghana and on the West African regional
South Africa-based Imara Africa Securities analyst Brian
Mugabe said the board and major shareholders would likely
support the bank's position because they would have been aware
of the reasons behind do Rego's departure.
Ecobank is under pressure to reform after the SEC said in
January there were failures in the board's ability to manage its
own activities, monitor management and oversee ethical
For shareholders, including South Africa's Public Investment
Corporation (PIC), the outcome of the probe and the status of do
Rego are central to their view on the bank's leadership, said
Johann Scholtz, head of research at Africafocus Securities in
"The concern for Nedbank or PIC would be the exact
nature of the investigation by the SEC and the reasons for the
financial director being suspended. All of that would raise some
pretty serious concerns," Scholtz said.
(Editing by Erica Billingham and David Evans)