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Mizuho Financial Holdings Inc. executives issued a stream of apologies at the banking group’s general shareholders’ meeting Tuesday, as shareholders demanded explanations for the widespread ATM failures and account mixups that marred the banking group’s official launch in April.

“If the bank is not going to change under its current management, management should step down,” one shareholder said during the two-hour closed meeting in Tokyo, according to a Mizuho official. Some shareholders specifically targeted Mizuho Holdings president Terunobu Maeda.

A total of 1,790 shareholders attended the general meeting, about twice the number who attended an extraordinary meeting in January.

The holding company’s share price closed at 262,000 yen per share Tuesday, down 31.4 percent from a mid-March peak of 382,000 yen.

“We mean to push forward our new business plan with firm resolve,” Maeda was quoted as saying. He called for patience and understanding from shareholders, adding that executives are doing their best to prevent a recurrence.

Last week, the world’s biggest banking group in terms of assets cut the salaries of 117 top executives to take responsibility for the banking fiascoes, which affected millions of accounts.

The salaries of Maeda, Mizuho Bank President Tadashi Kudo and Mizuho Corporate Bank President Hiroshi Saito were cut in half. The salaries of Mizuho’s 18 board members in fiscal 2001 totaled 255 million yen.

Mizuho officials admitted last week that top management and senior officials did not fully appreciate the operational risks involved in integrating three proprietary computer systems. Account holders were unable to withdraw cash at ATMs, thousands were double-billed and millions of credit card and utility payments failed to go through.

In April, the operations of the former Fuji Bank, Dai-Ichi Kangyo and the Industrial Bank of Japan were merged into Mizuho Bank, the group’s commercial arm, and Mizuho Corporate Bank, which handles corporate accounts.

“We apologize for causing inconvenience to our many customers and shareholders due to problems in our settlement systems that also serve an integral role in the social infrastructure,” the Mizuho official quoted Maeda as saying.

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