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Olympus hopes for fresh start, ex-CEO angry


Olympus hopes for fresh start, ex-CEO angry


Olympus shareholders have voted through a new board of directors hoping to move on from one of Japan’s biggest ever corporate scandals.

A sometimes rowdy extraordinary shareholders’ meeting in Tokyo also approved five years’ worth of revised company accounts after the camera and medical device maker used improper accounting to hide 1.3 billion euros of investment losses.

Michael Woodford, the firm’s British ex-CEO said he may seek to have the vote annulled as Olympus executives refused to explain at the meeting why he had been sacked for “gross misconduct”.

Woodford has begun legal action against his former employer in Britain. He was fired six months ago when he questioned the firm’s accounting.

The former chief executive and foreign investors, who own 25-30 percent of the company, have sought a change in a deep-rooted culture of cross-shareholdings and cosy ties between banks and boardrooms.

The new board shows no concession to their hopes. The new president will be 30-year company veteran Hiroyuki Sasa, and the new chairman is Yasuyuki Kimoto, a former executive from the Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group.

Sumitomo Mitsui owns a 3.4 percent stake in Olympus and is the company’s main lender with 2.12 billion euros in outstanding loans and bonds.

Woodford said it was a “mockery” for Olympus to claim it was making a new start. “It’s why the world looks on and continues to think this world works in a completely different way, it’s Alice in Wonderland,” he said.

“When they have lost nearly $2 billion, is the new management going to accept that my dismissal was related to telling the truth and apologise or are they going to support this bunch of yes men and the ludicrous statements they have been making,” he added.

Law enforcement agencies in Japan, Britain and the United States are investigating. Seven people have been arrested, including a former chairman.

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