January 9, 2014 / 6:07 PM / 4 years ago

UPDATE 1-Nigeria SEC warns Ecobank over corporate governance

* Ecobank told to find a new board chairman

* Board under probe for alleged conflicts of interest

* Pan-African lender still seen as success story (Adds details, quotes from statement, background)

LAGOS, Jan 9 (Reuters) - Nigeria’s securities regulator said on Thursday Ecobank Transnational showed a lack of transparency in its recruitments that fostered conflicts of interest and recommended it pick a new chairman.

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) also told the pan-African lender to come up with a one-year plan to iron out its “governance gaps,” adding that it expected a quarterly report on progress.

It recommended that Ecobank communicate findings of its inquiry to shareholders at an extraordinary meeting.

An Ecobank spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The lender announced the departure on Wednesday of its group executive director for finance and risk, Laurence do Rego, who made allegations last year that prompted the SEC’s investigation.

Ecobank Chairman Kolapo Lawson resigned in October pending the outcome of the probe, which also concerned loans taken out at the bank by companies in which he had an interest.

Do Rego’s allegations included that the CEO Thierry Tanoh had pressured her to misstate the group’s 2012 results.

Tanoh, a former vice president of the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation, said in September he was forgoing his bonus as part of efforts to restore investor confidence.

Ecobank is trying to salvage confidence knocked by the probe and investors still view it as one of few major pan-African success stories.

“The Commission believes that ETI will need to appoint a substantive board chairman who will lead the effort to attain an improved governance climate,” the statement said.

“The chairman should have integrity, independence and should not have the potential for conflict of interest in the discharge of the role.” (Reporting by Tim Cocks and Mayowa Oludare; Editing by Tom Heneghan)

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