The Chief Executive Officer of Access Bank Plc, Herbert Wigwe has been named in a recent investigation by the United States Securities and Exchange Commission(SEC) hearing into alleged insider trading in a Tech Unicorn, Flutterwave.
This is according to a report published on WestAfricaWeekly by Award-winning Journalist, David Hundeyin on Tuesday shed light into certain activities and allegations of Insider Trading levelled against Flutterwave and its CEO, Agboola Olugbenga or ‘GB’ as he is popularly called.
Agboola is facing serious allegations of Insider trading as he has been accused of forcing some of his employees who he offered stock options, of selling to companies or investment vehicles he has interests in for below market price.
He has also been accused of running Flutterwave while still employed at Access Bank Plc and using the bank’s resources to secure deals and favours for the company.
The article read in Part; “Jennifer joined Flutterwave in September 2017. Coming from a senior role at a Big 4 consultancy, it took some doing to convince her to join Flutterwave in the first place. She recalls that she actually had a job offer at Access Bank before The Man stepped in. The Man here is Olugbenga Agboola, also known as “GB,” (and sometimes “Greg” – more on that later).”
“GB somehow convinced Jennifer to take the plunge into a 16 month-old fintech startup. Apparently, GB is blessed with the gift of persuasion, which becomes a recurring theme in the course of this story. Key to Jennifer’s decision to turn down an already-accepted, cushy job offer at one of Nigeria’s largest banks was the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to join an early stage high growth startup and take advantage of its stock compensation plan. Over and above simply earning a salary, such shares in a sufficiently valuable startup can be financially life-changing. Flutterwave was not coy about it either. The offer was printed in her employment letter, and then in her confirmation letter 7 months later.”
“She also had no problem with performance on the job, as evidenced by the following documents from her case, which is currently at the National Industrial Court where she is locked in litigation with Flutterwave.”
“According to court records, Jennifer’s problems at Flutterwave began when – for whatever reason – she fell out of favour with GB despite clearly having no issues with job performance. A list of witnesses in the case summary reveals a list of Flutterwave staff who joined the company around the same time or even later, and some of whom resigned before she did. They all received the stock options promised to them. Jennifer however, did not, despite repeatedly bringing up the subject with GB.”
“For legal purposes, Jennifer did not agree to be quoted directly in this story, but she did however confirm that former Flutterwave CEO, Iyinoluwa Aboyeji signed off on the letter offering her 40,000 shares, which at current market valuation, are worth roughly $2 million. This letter however, vanished into a black hole shortly thereafter, when Iyin was abruptly and unexpectedly fired by GB, leaving him locked out of all company resources including his official email. (More on that later too.)”
“GB meanwhile, continued to sign off on stock option offers for his preferred office favourites, which created a confusing situation for Jennifer. On the one hand, he continued to praise her work regularly and she consistently met or exceeded her performance targets. On the other hand, only those who kissed the metaphorical ring would get these entitlements that were written in their job offer letters.”
“Perhaps more meta was the fact that even those who managed to get their stock packages ended up receiving pitiful offers that were far below market value for their shares. In February 2021 for example, this ex-employee who asked to be completely anonymous was given an offer of $3.50 per share.”
“The actual market value of Flutterwave shares, as explained in a recent call with a Potential Flutterwave investor below, was closer to $20. In other words, GB only permitted this (apparently fortunate) employee to get roughly 17.5 percent of the value of his shareholding. These shares, I was reliably informed, are only permitted to be sold to an investment vehicle controlled by none of other than GB himself at the price he decides. Anywhere else, this would be classified as insider trading. In Nigeria?”
SEC Hearing and Herbert Wigwe
The United States Securities and Exchange Commission launched an investigation into Flutterwave activities after it received information of possible insider trading after it was discovered that Agboola was still an active employee of access bank when he started the company.
WestAfricaWeekly reports: “Present at a Flutterwave remote meeting while still concealing his involvement in the company from outsiders including Access Bank, he forgets that Iyin is supposed to be answering questions as Flutterwave’s “CEO,” and he jumps in to take charge of the meeting, only realising afterward that he forgot to alter his voice, potentially revealing his true identity as Gbenga Agboola to the other parties on the call. He then instructs an employee to lie that he was not the one whose voice they just heard.”
“In a message from April 2017, GB remarks that he is being too popularly identified with Flutterwave for his liking. At this point, he is still pretending to be Olugbenga Agboola, Head of Digital Factory & Innovation, Access Bank, while his official Flutterwave email address deliberately does not include a name tag yet.”
“In early 2018, news about this unholy arrangement got to the United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), which has jurisdiction over the Delaware-registered corporation. Under US law, a conviction for insider trading carries a criminal sentence of up to 20 years in prison. According to several sources, GB, Iyin and – for some reason – Herbert Wigwe flew to the Washington DC for an SEC hearing where they allegedly testified under oath that GB never worked simultaneously at Flutterwave and Access Bank. To confirm whether this actually happened, I submitted an information request to the SEC under the US Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA).”
Efforts to reach the bank for comment proved abortive as calls/messages sent to it’s media chief, Amaechi Okobi went unanswered.