Ousted Briton urged to return to Japan's Olympus

14th November 2011, Comments 0 comments

Japan's Olympus must bring its wrongdoing out into the open and ousted CEO Michael Woodford is the only man who can do it, a former director said as he sought to rally support to reinstate the Briton.

The comments from former board director Koji Miyata come as Olympus faces increasing pressure after revealing last week that it covered up investment losses dating back to the 1990s with inflated acquisition fees.

Olympus shares have lost just under 80 percent of their value since October 14, when Woodford was ousted. It has been warned of possible delisting by the Tokyo Stock Exchange, and the government has spoken out to limit the fall-out on markets.

Woodford said he was dismissed after he alleged overpayments in a series of acquisition deals and called on the then-chairman to resign.

Miyata said he has started a campaign to reinstate the Briton -- he set up a pro-Woodford website on Saturday -- calling his performance as president "an inconvenient truth" for the company.

In a message on the website addressed to all Olympus employees, Miyata, a 70-year-old former senior managing director, said he took action as he was "unwilling to sit passively and witness the demise of a company that I love."

"Friends, the Good Ship Olympus is listing and is in real danger of sinking... Dont think for a moment that our endoscopic business is somehow indestructible," said the former head of the firm's medical systems business.

"No customer wants to purchase endoscopes or any products from a company regarded as corrupt," he said.

"Winning peoples' trust will depend on reinstating Michael Woodford as president," he said, arguing his return would be crucial to making "wide-ranging and surely painful restructuring".

Miyata said Olympus's "horrific corporate governance" has become globally emblematic of Japanese corporations and the company only has a brief window of opportunity to demonstrate that what has happened will not recur.

The website said Monday it had stopped displaying names of supporters due to a "larger-than-expected response".

Olympus has said Woodford was fired because of cultural differences -- despite his 30-year career in the group.

The company said on Monday it was doing its best to get to the truth through a probe by a third-party panel.

"We will take investigation results from the third-party panel sincerely, take stern measures and push with reforms," company spokesman Yoshiaki Yamada said.

Miyata's call echoes that of major Olympus shareholders such as investment firm Baillie Gifford which has also called for Woodford's reinstatement.

Olympus shares rebounded 17.39 percent in Tokyo trade Monday on optimism the company will meet a December 14 deadline to report its earnings, easing fears the stock will be delisted. It closed at 540 yen, a gain of 80 yen.

The Nikkei on Monday reported that Olympus had decided to correct its earnings reports for the past five years in the wake of the revelations that it has been covering up losses.

Japanese media have reported that Tokyo police and regulatory agencies are investigating, amid questions over the auditing firms that signed off on the company's financial statements.

Olympus has yet to reveal its losses, but media reports have said it may have concealed more than 100 billion yen ($129 million).

Woodford has said current managers involved in loss cover-ups should step down. "Those shameful individuals who brought this company to its knees need to go," he told the TBS network in a recent interview.


© 2011 AFP

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