NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's uplifting perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Monday, February 27th, 2012

Olympus’ entire board of directors resigning to make way for new leadership

Months after the Olym­pus’ ex-CEO-turned-whistle­blow­er began demand­ing their res­ig­na­tions, the entire board of direc­tors of the scan­dal-rid­den Japan­ese elec­tron­ics mak­er is final­ly step­ping down, the com­pa­ny said today.

“[A]ll the cur­rent direc­tors and cor­po­rate audi­tors express their inten­tions to resign at the end of the extra­or­di­nary gen­er­al share­hold­ers meet­ing and have sub­mit­ted let­ters of res­ig­na­tion to the Com­pa­ny,” Olym­pus announced in a state­ment.

The com­pa­ny also said that it was propos­ing a slate of eleven indi­vid­u­als to be rat­i­fied by share­hold­ers as the new board of direc­tors. Fifty-six year old Hiroyu­ki Sasa, who cur­rent­ly serves as the chief mar­ket­ing offi­cer for Olym­pus’ med­ical imag­ing unit, has been tapped to serve as the com­pa­ny’s new president.

If the pro­posed new board is elect­ed, the num­ber of  what Olym­pus terms “out­side direc­tors” will dou­ble, from three to six.

But major Olym­pus share­hold­ers say the new slate isn’t inde­pen­dent enough. “The clear cred­i­tor ori­en­ta­tion of the board is unac­cept­able,” South­east­ern Asset Man­age­ment, which owns more than five per­cent of Olym­pus’ shares, said in its own state­ment, attrib­uted to vice pres­i­dent Josh Shore. “We are extreme­ly dis­ap­point­ed with the com­po­si­tion of the pro­posed board.”

Olym­pus’ for­mer chief exec­u­tive, Michael Wood­ford, who uncov­ered the account­ing scan­dal that has wiped out much of the val­ue of the com­pa­ny’s stock and led to the arrests of sev­er­al for­mer Olym­pus direc­tors and audi­tors, told Reuters that he agreed with South­east­ern’s con­cerns.

“Look­ing at cap­i­tal rais­ing, to have a rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the bank there as the chair­man will only frus­trate and alien­ate any inde­pen­dent for­eign share­hold­er, and I’m sure share­hold­ers in Japan… It’s com­plete­ly and utter­ly wrong,” he said.

In a state­ment post­ed to Olym­pus Grass­roots ear­li­er this month, Wood­ford said he was keep­ing a close eye on the cur­rent dis­graced and dis­cred­it­ed board, but crit­i­cized its mem­bers (who are final­ly quit­ting Olym­pus) for not being more open about their plans to replace themselves.

I am mon­i­tor­ing events at Olym­pus extreme­ly close­ly. Over recent days there have been many rumours about the com­pa­ny form­ing a so called ‘strate­gic alliance’, but the name of any such exter­nal par­ty has not been con­firmed by the com­pa­ny. Equal­ly, we remain unclear in defin­i­tive terms as to whether any of the cur­rent direc­tors plan to put them­selves for­ward again on a new slate and also the names and back­grounds of new can­di­dates. I have strong opin­ions on both these issues, as I’m sure do many thou­sands of oth­er shareholders.

In rela­tion to today’s announce­ment of an extra­or­di­nary share­hold­ers meet­ing on April 20, my inten­tion is cur­rent­ly to attend this and, I believe it will be attend­ed by large num­bers of small share­hold­ers includ­ing com­pa­ny employees.

In this respect, I trust the com­pa­ny will make arrange­ments for a suit­ably large venue (not as in pre­vi­ous years at the Keio Plaza) to allow all share­hold­ers small, large, domes­tic and from over­seas, to have a forum in which to speak out open­ly as they feel fit.

This will be the first for­mal oppor­tu­ni­ty for all the company’s share­hold­ers to ques­tion and hold its man­age­ment to account. Of course inves­ti­ga­tions on three con­ti­nents are ongo­ing and we are there­fore still not in a posi­tion to know the full extent of what took place but before the extra­or­di­nary gen­er­al meet­ing, I believe it is high­ly like­ly there will be fur­ther rev­e­la­tions and all inter­est­ed par­ties should con­tin­ue to close­ly scru­ti­nise events.

- Michael Wood­ford, Feb­ru­ary 5th, 2012

The depar­ture of Olym­pus’ cur­rent, cor­rupt board is long over­due. The com­pa­ny needs fresh blood at its helm to begin rebuild­ing investor and cus­tomer con­fi­dence. And it needs to take seri­ous­ly the con­cerns of for­eign share­hold­ers, not ignore them sim­ply because they do not own a major stake in the company.

It is our hope, as loy­al Olym­pus cus­tomers, that the com­pa­ny will emerge from this dark chap­ter in its his­to­ry by lis­ten­ing to stake­hold­ers, stamp­ing out crony­ism, and triple-check­ing the verac­i­ty of its finan­cial state­ments. More than any­thing else, Olym­pus needs account­able man­age­ment to get it back on track.

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