NIGERIA: ETI Shareholders Endorse Governance Action Plan

Shareholders of Ecobank Transnational Incorporated (ETI) yesterday passed a governance action plan to address criticism of corporate governance breaches by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).
The decision was taken at the pan-African bank’s Extraordinary General Meeting (EGM) held in Lome, Togo, where the fate of the Chief Executive Officer of ETI, Thierry Tanoh was not on the agenda.
Tanoh had 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 the 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 percent of the bank’s shares, had said Tanoh must step down immediately, citing a string of governance and other abuses.
Ecobank faced criticism in January from SEC. The capital market regulator in Nigeria had 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 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 per cent in the first nine months of 2013. Senior bank officials rejected criticism of Tanoh and say those results show his effectiveness as a chief executive.

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