EXCLUSIVE: Ecobank (ETI) absolves Kolapo Lawson of all allegations


August 17, 2016 17.32pm / News Investigation

We are able to report on a developing story we have been tracking for a while given its significance to the regulator/corporate governance relationship in the Nigerian public space.

Today, we can confirm that Ecobank Transnational Incorporated (ETI) and Ecobank Nigeria have absolved Mr. Kolapo Lawson, former ETI Chairman of all allegations made against his person and his chairmanship of the board as presented during the 2013 Ecobank Board “Governance Crisis”, in which the Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC) of Nigeria had to weigh in on.

Recall that in 2013, the Ecobank Group was plunged into a governance crisis with local and international press coverage (mostly by the Financial Times, FT) around issues/allegations that were at odds with what was known in the market/industry at the time. Soon enough, a lot more became public that the investing community were not able to discern what was fact as against fiction. The SEC, as the regulators rightfully stepped in and brought some measure of order to the discourse, including raising new issues and approaches, including the KPMG Audit which till today remains unresolved.

During the press frenzy, allegations of fraud and misconduct were made to the board of Ecobank Group against Mr. Kolapo Lawson, the then chairman of the board of ETI; the consequences of which resulted in his eventual step down on the condition that independent investigations (by the board and SEC) would be conducted into the said matter.

The results of the Ernst & Young report (as ordered by the board) was made public while the results of the KPMG report (as ordered by the SEC) remains tightly guarded; and remains only known to the SEC.

The board of ETI, following the institution of a court case against it by the former chairman, has now recognized that “Mr. Kolapo Lawson has contributed immensely to the growth of the bank during his 30 years of service, and has moved to make full and final payment to cover for the suit and any future claims against ETI and Ecobank Nigeria”.

This was contained in a June 01, 2016 letter exclusively obtained by Proshare News & Investigations, which established validation to the investigations conducted - that the former chairman was indeed the whistleblower who brought to the attention of the Board and the regulators; instances of serious securities fraud, corporate governance breaches and outright criminality spotted by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) investigators and for which far reaching consequences was expected.

The letter from ETI now places in perspective the dichotomy between the claims of the chairman and the latter day allegations of previously SEC-ascribed whistleblower in the person of Mrs. Laurence De’Rogo, an ETI senior employee.

At the time of this news release, we understand that the required second audit by KPMG has not taken place and that ETI’s request for a clean bill of health from SEC cannot happen until the second independent review takes place. ETI is currently seeking a listing on the premier board of the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE) while its outstanding governance issues which includes its public offer, shareholders register issues and the operational issues remains unclarified even as the new management continues to work hard to build upon a brand that is well liked in the francophone nations and indeed with loyal Nigerian customers.

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9.      Public Nature of Dispute casts a Pall on Corporate Governance at ETI –Sep 27, 2013

10.      Ecobank Board moves to strengthen Corporate Governance practices – Sep 23, 2013

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