More than 2,300 major companies across the country hosted general shareholders’ meetings Friday as police mobilized about 10,000 officers to prevent possible disruptions by “sokaiya” corporate extortionists.
The firms included the failed Yamaichi Securities Co. and Hokkaido Takushoku Bank as well as Yakult Honsha Co., which registered massive losses through bogus investment schemes.
Some companies televised meetings live. Most firms adhered to the traditional practice of requiring employees who hold shares to attend; their support of company policies helps to bring the meetings to a quick end.
Police said 30 fewer companies held meetings than on last year’s peak day. Although tougher police action and a Commercial Code revision banning anyone from demanding favors from companies seem to have suppressed sokaiya activities, about 2,200 firms requested that officers be dispatched to their meetings Friday.
In Osaka, two sokaiya were arrested and another was being sought on suspicion of threatening a shareholder in February, police said.
The arrested sokaiya were identified as Toshiyuki Tamura, 50, a sokaiya group representative from Tokyo’s Nakano Ward, and Naoya Uno, 27, from Kyoto’s Minami Ward. Police also launched a hunt for Hidezo Tamamizu, 60, another sokaiya group representative based in Osaka’s Nishi Ward.
According to police, the sokaiya attended the general shareholders’ meeting of Matsushita Electric Industrial Co., which was held Feb. 26 in Kadoma, Osaka Prefecture.
During that session, a 60-year-old shareholder raised a question but was threatened by the three suspects who shouted at him as he tried to speak.
At the All Nippon Airways shareholders’ meeting, attended by 451 stockholders, President Kichisaburo Nomura apologized for suspending dividends for the first time in 30 years.
Nomura blamed the economic downturn, officials reported in a briefing to reporters following the meeting. No specific measures had been decided, but Nomura promised not to increase the company deficit, officials said.
While 32 members of an Osaka subsidiary that was closed by ANA clamored outside the Tokyo ANA Hotel for compensation, the meeting proceeded smoothly and ended in 33 minutes, a spokesperson said.
At Japan Airlines, the shareholders’ meeting lasted three hours and four minutes — the longest since the carrier was privatized in 1987 — with 1,138 shareholders attending.
Shareholders questioned the carrier’s decision, announced in a business report for fiscal 1997, to use 150 billion yen in internal reserves to write off its and its affiliated firms’ accumulated losses.
Some shareholders held management responsible for bringing the situation about and criticized the carrier for not offering dividends for six consecutive years.
Jyunichi Ujiie, president and chairman of Nomura Securities Co.’s shareholders’ meeting, apologized in his opening speech for the company’s sokaiya payoffs. “I apologize from my heart for the problems and concerns inflicted on our shareholders,” he said.
At the meeting, held at Nomura International Center in Takanawa, Minato Ward, company officials gave a briefing on the internal supervision committee formed within the company since last year that includes outside lawyers.
The shareholders agreed to accept an offer for reduced retirement pay for four former executives involved in the wining and dining of government officials.
The meeting was attended by 433 shareholders, about half of last year’s showing of 883. It lasted almost two hours, more than an hour shorter than last year’s.
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