• Kyodo

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The Finance Ministry on Friday started investigating claims that Aichi Bank, a second-tier regional bank based in Nagoya, may have forced its employees to buy its shares, sources said.

The Tokai Local Finance Bureau will impose disciplinary measures if it unearths evidence that Aichi Bank coerced its workers or that some bank employees were engaged in insider-trading activities, the sources said.

In early February, Aichi Bank dispersed documents among its branch managers urging them to ask employees to buy bank shares, according to bank officials.

These managers later asked employees whether they were ready to accede to the bank’s request, the officials said.

Aichi Bank conducted interviews with employees Thursday, with about 30 percent of all workers voicing readiness to purchase the shares, the officials said.

The branch managers noted the reasons given by employees who declined to purchase the shares and submitted the relevant documents to the bank, according to the officials.

The fact that Aichi Bank is set to abolish the company’s pension program in March is said to be behind the move.

The bank is consequently about to reimburse employees with a combined 2 billion yen, the pool of contributions the bank had set aside to fund its pension program.

Aichi Bank had planned to urge its employees to use the refunded money to purchase bank shares, the officials said.

“The personnel affairs department is in charge of running the pension program,” said an official at Aichi Bank’s general planning department. “So employees might have thought that the issue of whether they consent to buy the shares would be reflected in their personnel career affairs.

“But we had no such intention.”

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