Nissan Motor Co chief executive officer Hiroto Saikawa yesterday said that he received more pay than he was entitled to, but denied wrongdoing.
“I left the issue to someone else, so I had thought it was dealt with in an appropriate manner,” he told reporters in Tokyo.
He denied any wrongdoing and said he would return the excess payments.
The statement came after Japanese media reported that an internal Nissan probe found that Saikawa and other executives received more equity-linked remuneration than they were entitled to.
The automaker said that the “findings from Nissan’s internal investigation are scheduled to be reported to the board of directors on September 9.”
“We have heard that share appreciation rights will also be part of this report,” it said, declining to comment further.
The Nikkei business daily reported that Saikawa was suspected of improperly adding ￥47 million (US$441,000) to his compensation by altering the terms of a bonus.
However, Nissan does not believe the overpayment was illegal, the Kyodo news agency reported, citing unnamed sources.
The overpayments were made in a scheme known as stock appreciation right, under which directors can receive a bonus if their company’s share price rises above a certain level in a set period.
Nissan is undergoing an overhaul intended to strengthen governance after a scandal over the arrest and ouster of former chairman Carlos Ghosn, who is accused of wrongdoing, including misrepresenting his compensation.
In June, Nissan shareholders voted in favor of measures including the establishment of three new oversight committees responsible for the appointment of senior officials, pay issues and auditing.
They also approved the election of 11 directors as the firm restructures, among them two Renault executives and Saikawa.
Tatsuo Yoshida, an analyst with Bloomberg Intelligence, told reporters that Saikawa’s “leadership authority is jeopardized” by the pay issue.
Already weakened by the Ghosn fallout, Saikawa’s standing as CEO is “even more fragile than before,” Yoshida said.
“Before, the chances of his resignation were maybe 30 percent, the chances are now 50-50 or even higher,” he said.
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