Exclusive: Ecobank in row over anonymous email, hacking allegations

Tue Nov 26, 2013 6:37am EST
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By Matthew Mpoke Bigg

ACCRA (Reuters) - Pan-African lender Ecobank has sued a top executive who left the company this month, naming him in a civil complaint in Togo as the author of an anonymous email accusing Chief Executive Thierry Tanoh of mismanagement.

The executive, David Lawson, denied to Ecobank that he wrote the email and said he had been unfairly dismissed. He accused Ecobank executives including Tanoh of hacking his phone and email account in a fruitless search for evidence against him. The company denies wrongdoing.

The row comes as Ecobank tries to shore up confidence in its governance after a Nigerian industry watchdog began investigating the way it reported financial results. The bank's chairman quit last month, saying it wasn't appropriate for him to stay given the company's ongoing reviews of governance.

Ecobank has been viewed by investors as an African success story for its strong growth and expansion beyond its Togo base into 33 African countries. It made record profits last year.

One member of Ecobank's board told his colleagues in an email seen by Reuters that Lawson's hacking allegations were a cause for concern and could get the bank into trouble.

Lawson, who left as head of strategy on November 8, was a member of the Group Executive Committee that runs Ecobank and reports to its board.

A spokesman for Ecobank Transnational Incorporated (ETI), as the bank is officially known, declined to discuss the circumstances of Lawson's departure.

Lawson told Reuters on Monday: "In the panel's attempt to implicate me in this affair ...(it) resorted to the illegal acts of phone tapping, email hacking, stalking and invasion of privacy".   Continued...