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Do you think that the problem unfolding at Olympus is a difference in perception of how business is done in Japan? For example, could deals that ousted British CEO Michael Woodford considered dubious,


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It probably would be seen as normal business practice by some, but it's still corrupt as hell. It's not a difference in perception, just a tolerance for corruption.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

It's probably true. In many countries, there are shady business practices that a foreign executive would find questionable but which the locals accept as a routine business practice, such as payoffs etc. I wonder why Olympus appointed a foreign CEO in the first place. The board must have known that he would want to shake things up.

A similar fate happened to the Shinsei Bank American CEO a few years ago, I recall.

I also wonder if Carlos Ghosn and Howard Stringer had any similar problems when they took over at Nissan and Sony.

If I became the CEO of a Japanese company, I think my first order of business would be to change the board of directors, though that is probably not as easy as it sounds.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Obviously. I mean, the Chairman and Pres are just keeping their own fiefdoms intact and this interloper is threatening to bring it all down.

As any one seen a quarterly report from a publicly-held Japanese company that is mostly owned by Japanese investors? They're jokes when compared to the quarterly reports publicly-held US companies distribute. Little more than pamphlets about their products and facilities.

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The first question is irrelevant. The deals did not occur strictly in Japan - they were international. So the way they could be perceived vs. "how business is done in Japan" is not applicable.

The second question is premature. We can't reasonably say whether or not the Olympus deals could be "thought of as normal business practices by Japanese executives" without knowing where the $687 million dollars ultimately ended up.

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Mark -- nonsense. The decisions made on these deals, including the payments to the "advisors", as well as the ousting of Woodford, were all made in Japan, in a major Japan-based company environment. Hence the problem -- isolation, arrogance, and lack of concern about share-holders well-being. And your second point is equally irrelevant. So far we know; that they paid too much (we just don't know to whom), that they canned Woodford because he was going to expose it, and, then lied about all of it. And now shuffle the CEO off to a meaningless position while making some bows and saying they are sorry for having caused confusion. Sorry, but IMO, based on ten years in Japan working with numerous major companies, that is "normal business practice" there.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

So far we don't know where the money really went, so we can only speculate. Even in the "best case", that the money ended up in company-owned slush funds, at least since the advent of the internal control part (also known as J-SOX) of the Financial Instruments and Exchange Law (金融商品取引法) in 2008, there is no way to call it common business practice any more. We will see more heads rolling, not just Kikukawa's.

Could it be that Kikukawa brought in Woodford specifically because he doesn't speak Japanese so that he would have more difficulties to poke in past stories?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

It's not normal even in Japan. It's egregious and demands a full investigation by somebody other than the current Olympus management. Even if there has typically been a lot less transparency in Japan than western countries about how companies conduct themselves, that does not make it right or acceptable. Some people in Japan have not realised that yet, but many have. With luck this Olympus case will be a trigger to move to a more open, honest and acceptable way of doing things at publicly listed companies in Japan.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Corporate governance in Japan lags a long way behind North America and Europe, and most of Asia. Many of the global companies are actually still run as personal or family businesses, like in the case of DaiO papers, where executives still think of the company as their personal property. Too many cross-shareholders exist, with no-one wanting to upset the status quo, The general disdain for the typical small non-cross holding shareholders opinions is seen every year at the AGMs.

It will be interesting to see if they have a clean sweep of the board, as the new guy is also denying anything wrong happened, and see what happens to Woodford.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Foreign execs are used to transparency and accountability-Japanese execs are not!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Corruption is not subject to points of view.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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