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New financial services minister eyes stiffer fines for insider trading

by Jun Hongo

Staff Writer

The Financial Services Agency may impose heavier fines on those who engage in insider trading in light of a spate of recent cases, according to its new chief.

“I am aware that there are people who feel the current fines (against the practice) are too low,” Tadahiro Matsushita, the new financial services and postal reforms minister, said during an interview with The Japan Times and other media outlets Thursday.

The government is coming under pressure to take stricter action following a number of insider trading scandals recently, including a case in April involving SMBC Nikko Securities Inc.

“We need to study past incidents and discuss creating tougher regulations, including higher penalties,” the new minister said.

Matsushita, a Lower House member of Kokumin Shinto (People’s New Party) currently in his fifth term, was appointed to the Cabinet for the first time in Monday’s reshuffle. He previously served as senior vice minister of the Reconstruction Agency, which was established in February to speed up rebuilding efforts in disaster-hit Tohoku.

On alleviating the debt of victims of the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami, Matsushita said the FSA may need to extend further assistance to those struggling with a mountain of debt in the catastrophe’s aftermath.

The government has calculated that up to 20,000 people were forced to take out new loans after the twin disasters destroyed their homes, whose mortgages were still outstanding.

“We must collaborate with other government bodies, including the Reconstruction Agency, to figure out the right way to resolve the issue,” he said.

Matsushita, who will also oversee postal privatization in his new post, indicated the sale of government-owned shares in Japan Post Holdings Co. may take a while.

Many issues have yet to be resolved before the government can start offloading the stock, including the merger of Japan Post Service Co. and Japan Post Network Co. in October, he said.

“We still haven’t come up with a time frame, so it won’t happen anytime soon. Other matters need to be taken care of first,” Matsushita said.

On Europe’s sovereign debt mire, he predicted the outcome of Greece’s June 17 elections will prove a crucial turning point, and assured that Japan will continue to closely monitor global markets’ reaction to the vote.

“We are hoping continued efforts by European nations will help work things out” and stabilize the debt crisis, he said.