updated 02:15 pm EST, Thu November 24, 2011
Key Olympus execs resign rather than face meeting
Olympus saw an upheaval in its corporate structure Thursday after three board members quit in the wake of its ongoing loss cover-up scandal. Chairman Tsuyoshi Kikukawa, who fired the CEO after he uncovered the mismanagement, resigned in sync with auditor Hideo Yamada and Executive Vice President Hisashi Mori. They quit just a day before they were to confront ousted CEO Michael Woodford at a board meeting.
Woodford had already been calling for resignations and a major overhaul in corporate structure after the scandal, which saw Olympus pay mystery advisory fees to mask losses as far back as the 1990s. Any refusal from the relevant board members to resign could have led to an explosive meeting and an untenable position Kikukawa and others that are now known to have intentionally tried to silence the truth by firing the CEO.
Woodward had left Japan the very day he was fired after hearing that Olympus may have been making payments with yakuza connections, putting his own life at stake. An independent panel investigating the claims has since dismissed that link.
The case is believed to be one of the largest corruption incidents in Japanese history and could see the executives involved face criminal charges. Japanese corporate culture has been criticized for its insular nature and might be forced to open up and adopt a more Western strategy that focuses more on accountability.