Entire Olympus board to resign over loss coverup

Company vows to go after erring executives, fix management

by Minoru Matsutani

Staff Writer

Olympus Corp. said Wednesday all of its current board members will step down and new independent committees will determine the specific involvement of former and current executives in the company’s coverup of huge losses.

At a news conference in Tokyo, President Shuichi Takayama said executives found responsible for hiding the losses will be sacked, but he avoided clarifying the timing of when the board will exit.

While Olympus is still scheduled to hold its regular shareholders’ meeting in June, it is expected to hold an extraordinary meeting of investors as early as February, according to Kyodo News.

The move came a day after a third-party panel released a report saying Olympus concealed ¥117.7 billion in investment losses dating back to the 1990s and that current executives should be replaced.

Even though foreign shareholders have publicly voiced their desire for an extraordinary shareholders’ meeting, Takayama said the company has not received an official request.

Takayama said Olympus’ assessment of former President and CEO Michael C. Woodford being “too selfish” has not changed.

But he also said it is worth noting it was the Briton who brought the wrongdoing to light and added that he intends to let shareholders decide whether Woodford should come back as president.

Takayama said the company will launch three independent committees to ascertain the responsibility and culpability of former and current executives and auditors, and to reform management.

Olympus is also considering filing a criminal complaint with police or prosecutors against executives responsible for the coverup, he said.

Takayama didn’t name those executives, but former Executive Vice President Hisashi Mori and former corporate auditor Hideo Yamada have been found responsible for the coverup. Former President and Chairman Tsuyoshi Kikukawa and other former presidents are also said to be responsible.

Following Tuesday’s report by the independent panel, the Tokyo Stock Exchange said it is considering delisting Olympus.

Takayama on Wednesday reiterated the company’s position to do its utmost to avoid a delisting.

If the shares are taken off the TSE, shareholders will be unable to sell them but will be entitled to dividends as long as the company exists and makes a profit.

Olympus will announce its earnings for the July-September period by Dec. 14, the deadline to keep its shares listed on the TSE, Takayama said.

Coverup plan found on PC

KYODO

A report on plans to cover up investment losses has been found in a personal computer of an investment official at Olympus Corp., sources said Wednesday.

The official, who was not identified, made the report dated Sept. 12, 2003, as instructed by former auditor Hideo Yamada and former Executive Vice President Hisashi Mori, who are alleged to have implemented the plans, according to the sources.

A third-party panel said Tuesday former Presidents Tsuyoshi Kikukawa, 70, Masatoshi Kishimoto, 75, and Toshiro Shimoyama, 87, had been aware of the coverup.

The sources said Mori and Yamada had regularly briefed the three and then auditors on details of the September 2003 report.

The report classified assets into the four categories — deposits, bonds, investment trusts and investments — specified the balance and latent losses for each category, and named funds used for the loss-transfer scheme, they said.