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Renault finds no irregularities in Ghosn pay audit

Renault finds no irregularities in Ghosn pay audit
FILE PHOTO: The logo of Renault automaker company is seen on a car in Paris, France, November 21, 2018. REUTERS-Gonzalo Fuentes/File Photo   -   Copyright  Gonzalo Fuentes(Reuters)
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By Laurence Frost and Gilles Guillaume

PARIS (Reuters) – Renault <RENA.PA> said on Thursday an audit launched in the wake of Chairman and CEO Carlos Ghosn’s arrest in Japan had so far found no irregularities with his pay at the French carmaker.

Renault’s statement, issued after a five-hour board meeting, did little to resolve the standoff with alliance partner Nissan <7201.T>, which accused Ghosn of far-reaching financial misconduct as it dismissed him as chairman last month.

The Renault board also asked company lawyers to continue examining a dossier of allegations received from Nissan this week, it said in a statement.

But the “preliminary conclusion” of its own internal probe was that Ghosn’s Renault compensation was “in compliance with applicable law” and governance guidelines, Renault said. It made no comment on Nissan’s allegations.

The boardroom crisis has shaken the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi alliance, with Nissan CEO Hiroto Saikawa calling for changes to weaken the French parent’s control.

Ghosn was charged on Monday in Japan for failing to declare deferred income he had agreed to receive from Nissan, for the five years ending March 2015. While Nissan fired him days after his Nov. 19 arrest, Renault has resisted pressure to replace him permanently.

The Renault board also “noted that, at this stage, it does not have information concerning Carlos Ghosn’s defence,” the company said after its meeting, which had long been scheduled to discuss 2018-19 financial accounts.

Under French government pressure, Ghosn had been exploring a deeper tie-up or even a full merger between Renault and Nissan, despite strong reservations at the Japanese carmaker.

Renault owns 43.4 percent of Nissan, whose reciprocal 15 percent stake in its French parent carries no voting rights. Nissan in turn controls Mitsubishi via a 34 percent holding.

Whether or not they broke the law, Ghosn’s undisclosed compensation plans – effectively doubling his total Nissan package – are politically sensitive in France, where President Emmanuel Macron is facing down street protests.

Nissan has said its internal whistleblower investigation also uncovered personal use of company funds and other misconduct, the subject of the 400-page report shared with Renault lawyers this week.

Ghosn and alleged accomplice, Nissan director Greg Kelly, remain in custody and have had limited opportunity to respond to the allegations or defend themselves, particularly in public.

(Reporting by Laurence Frost; Editing by Alexandra Hudson and Jane Merriman)

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