Olympus shareholders choose new board

Japanese firm rejects former chief executive Michael Woodford's bid to be reinstated after whistleblowing scandal.

    Olympus shareholders choose new board
    Michael Woodford was fired as chief executive of Olympus in October 2011 for exposing the financial scandal [AFP]

    Shareholders of Olympus have approved the firm's decision to appoint a new board of directors, despite objections from some investors, as the camera and medical equipment manufacturer looks to move on from a $1.7bn cover-up scandal.

    At Friday's meeting in Tokyo, the shareholders confirmed Yasuyuki Kimoto, a former senior managing director of Sumitomo Mitsui Banking, and Hideaki Fujizuka, a former executive officer of  Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ, as chairman and director.

    "As a majority showed their support, the original proposal was approved,"  the outgoing Olympus president, Shuichi Takayama, said, rejecting another proposal to elect the firm's whistleblowing former chief, Michael Woodford.

    The nomination of former executives from the company's main creditor banks is a move that Woodford and his supporters say will help prioritise creditors' interests at the expense of shareholders or company employees.

    The new 11-member board has eight outside board members, including a former executive at Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation Olympus' main bank, as chairman.

    With the bulk of company shares held by large Japanese institutional  investors, who are typically unwilling to rock the corporate boat, the  nominations were expected to be approved.

    The scandal came to light after Woodford, the company's first non-Japanese president, went public to the international media when he was sacked by the company in October 2011.

    Company's stand

    Woodford had taken a stand at its shareholders' meeting and demanded to know why he was fired as chief executive.

    Olympus declined to answer Woodford's question, saying the issue was pending litigation in Britain where Woodford is contesting his dismissal.

    A handful of angry shareholders got up and demanded to know why the company had allowed the scandal to happen.

    Olympus rejected criticism over its board picks, saying six out of 11 board members are "completely independent" of the firm and "have no relations with banks".

    Takayama and the new president, Hiroyuki Sasa, reiterated the company's view that it will fix its corporate governance and boost profitability under new management.

    After his appointment won shareholder approval, Sasa apologised for the scandal.

    "We have caused trouble to many people and the value of our company has declined,'' he said.

    "Once again we apologise deeply."

    Olympus eventually admitted wrongdoing after commissioning a probe by a panel of outside lawyers and several implicated executives were forced out.

    Japanese police have since arrested or charged numerous people, including  the company's former president and senior executives, over allegations they falsified Olympus's financial statements by moving huge losses off its balance sheet.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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