Mon, Jan 09, 2012 - Page 10 News List

Olympus mulls suing its executives for damages

AFP, TOKYO

Scandal-hit Olympus said yesterday it was considering lodging lawsuits against current and former executives for damages caused by their decision to hide massive investment losses.

The statement came after the firm’s in-house panel investigated the responsibility of its board members in the scandal that rocked the 92-year-old camera maker and undermined public trust in Japanese corporate governance.

“Upon receiving the report [on Saturday], we are currently discussing filing lawsuits against the current and former board members,” the company said in the brief announcement.

The company said it would disclose the report and discuss its plans tomorrow, after a national holiday today.

The combined damage claims could total hundreds of millions of US dollars against more than 10 Olympus officers, the Nikkei Shimbun said before the company issued the statement.

The cases will focus on three former executives who allegedly played major roles in the scandal, ex-president Tsuyoshi Kikukawa, former vice president Hisashi Mori and auditor Hideo Yamada, the business daily said.

Current president Shuichi Takayama will step down this month after the panel named him among those responsible for the scandal, Kyodo News and the Mainichi Shimbun said.

Kyodo said the panel recommended Olympus seek damages of more than ¥90 billion (US$1.17 billion).

The panel of three lawyers was tasked to investigate the exact responsibility of the Olympus board members in the scandal.

The group was set up after a separate committee of former judges and outside experts, commissioned by the company, condemned Olympus’ top management as “rotten.”

The Nikkei said a court case against Takayama was a possibility, but said his early resignation could damage the company’s ongoing efforts to rebuild itself, including a planned capital increase.

Kyodo said Olympus was likely to pick Takayama’s successor from among three board members the panel thinks were not responsible for concealing the losses.

Olympus has admitted that a small group of top executives hid at least ¥134.9 billion in losses from bad investments in the 1990s.

The scandal came to light after its first foreign president, Michael Woodford, exposed the matter last year by talking to the international media and authorities, as Olympus’ old guard quickly fired him from the top post.

Despite months of campaigning to clean up the Olympus board, Woodford has given up his efforts to return to and lead the company because of lack of support from major Japanese institutional shareholders.

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