Shareholder meetings were held at 148 companies across the country Thursday, a day earlier than those held by many major businesses.

Dai-Ichi Kangyo Bank’s meeting, which ran just over two hours, saw many shareholders question management about the bank’s pretax losses of about 155 billion yen in fiscal 1997. The gathering at 10 a.m. was attended by 518 shareholders and monitored by the press.

The bank, still suffering from last year’s scandals involving payoffs to a “sokaiya” corporate extortionist, explained the corrective action it has taken to prevent further illicit payoffs.

Bank President Katsuyuki Sugita apologized for the misdeeds, saying the situation should not be condoned at a firm with such grave responsibility to the public. “The situation is deeply regrettable, and I apologize from my heart for the problems and concern inflicted on our shareholders,” he said.

Executives also apologized for the bank’s inability to get out of the red due to the sluggish economy and its accelerated efforts to write off a huge amount of nonperforming loans.

Most of the debate focused on the offer of retirement pay to bank executives and auditors who retired last June or are to retire by the end of this month. Some shareholders called for the motion to be scrapped, saying responsibility should be taken for the scandals and the bank’s poor performance.

The Long-Term Credit Bank of Japan also held its annual meeting in the wake of widespread media reports that it is in dire straits. The gathering was held as LTCB’s share price took another tumble on the Tokyo Stock Exchange, this time to its 50 yen face value, before ending the session at an all-time low of 57 yen.

The meeting at Mitsubishi Motors Corp., rocked by revelations of illegal payoffs to sokaiya during the last business year, lasted 77 minutes, and 386 shareholders attended. In 1996, the MMC meeting took only 24 minutes and no shareholders asked questions. This year there were four questions concerning the carmaker’s business performance, the scandal and labor issues.

In Kyoto, Omron Corp. had its meeting at a local hotel Thursday. For the first time, the press could monitor the gathering via a video display. Although the electronics maker used to hold its meeting on the same day as most companies, Omron opted to hold the meeting on another day so more shareholders could attend and to gain their trust, company officials said.

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