Olympus defends new leadership nominees

Kyodo

Scandal-hit Olympus Corp. has countered a proposal urging investors to vote against its nominees for president and chairman at an extraordinary shareholders’ meeting April 20, arguing the candidates are well-qualified.

The camera and medical equipment maker, which has been rocked by a massive bubble-era accounting scandal and coverup, is seeking approval to promote Executive Officer Hiroyuki Sasa to president and appoint Yasuyuki Kimoto, a former senior managing director of Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corp., as chairman.

But Institutional Shareholder Services K.K., a shareholder advisory firm, recommended investors vote against the nominees, citing Sasa’s limited business experience and concern that the former banking executive could put the bank’s interests ahead of shareholders’, Olympus said.

Olympus said in a statement Wednesday to shareholders that Sasa has 30 years of experience in its core medical business and that the majority of its 11 candidates for the board will be outside board members “completely independent” of Olympus.

The shareholder advisory firm has also urged investors not to approve Olympus’ corrected financial statements as the authorities haven’t finished their probe.

Olympus protested the firm’s recommendation, saying it has corrected its cooked books after a report from a third-party panel and a review from an unspecified auditing firm.

Olympus’ management has admitted hiding ¥117.7 billion in investment losses dating back to the 1990s. It will release its earnings for the year ended March on May 10.