Ad agency staff cheated in chamber voting

Employees of advertising firm Tokyu Agency Inc. disguised themselves as sole proprietors to join the Tokyo Chamber of Commerce and Industry and vote for Ito-Yokado Co. in the chamber’s elections, sources said Monday.

The employees voted for the supermarket chain, a major client for the ad agency, in the elections held in 1997 and 2000 to choose firms that become members of the chamber’s assembly, the sources said.

In addition, Tokyu Agency asked some of its clients that were already TCCI members to increase their membership fees so they could cast more ballots and vote for Ito-Yokado.

The ad agency padded bills from the clients to provide them with money for extra membership fees, they said.

TCCI members can cast three votes in the elections per 10,000 yen in annual membership fees.

A Tokyu Agency spokesman said an employee who quit the company in 2002 organized the rigged votes secretly for the company.

An Ito-Yokado spokesman claimed his company often asks its business partners for cooperation in TCCI elections but never asked Tokyu Agency to cheat.

TCCI Chairman Nobuo Yamaguchi said Monday that the chamber will take an urgent look at the situation.

“It is very regrettable if the (election) system has been abused,” he said.