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Ecobank shareholders pass governance action plan, CEO stays

by Business News Report

Ecobank shareholders passed a governance action plan to address criticism by Nigeria’s securities regulator at an extraordinary general meeting on Monday where the fate of CEO Thierry Tanoh was not on the agenda, a top bank official said. Tanoh has faced calls to step down in recent days from his top executive team and the bank’s biggest shareholder, Public Investment Corporation of South Africa, but there was no vote on his future at Monday’s meeting as the agenda was set in advance.

Institutional investors at the pan-African lender, which is one of sub-Saharan Africa’s biggest banks, withdrew a motion to create a seven-member interim board in place of the current board, which has 12 members.

Tanoh, an Ivorian, took over as CEO in January 2013. He is a former vice president of the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation. “Ecobank shareholders passed a governance action plan which will supervise bank governance,” said the top official, who declined to be named.

PIC, which holds 18.35 per cent of the bank’s shares, on Saturday, said Tanoh must step down immediately, citing a string of governance and other abuses. In February, the four members of Tanoh’s Group Executive Committee, which runs the bank, called for him to step down because of what they said was a crisis of leadership.

Ecobank faced criticism in January from Nigeria’s Securities and Exchange Commission. It cited an absence of clear vision and strategy, inadequate transparency in recruiting and conflicts of interest. The day-long, closed-door meeting at the bank’s headquarters in the Togolese capital Lome featured a protest against board chairman Andre Siaka which delayed voting. Witnesses said a group of around 30 shareholders held up signs and made allegations about Siaka’s business affairs in Cameroon, arguing that he should step down from his role as meeting chair.

Some wore T-shirts saying “No IFC,” in a reference to Tanoh’s previous position and the IFC’s status as an institutional investor with a seat on the board.

“I have never seen anything like it,” one longtime shareholder from Burkina Faso said of the protest, adding that such bank meetings were normally over by lunchtime. Ecobank has assets of around $20 billion and operates in 33 African countries, giving it an unusually broad footprint and a significant role in financing economic expansion on a fast-growing continent. The bank’s profits rose 56 percent in the first nine months of 2013. Senior bank officials reject criticism of Tanoh and say those results show his effectiveness as a chief executive.


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