The Tokyo District Court reversed itself Tuesday and ruled that 12 former top executives of Sogo Co. were not responsible for damaging the firm by approving dividends when the rehabilitated department store operator was in poor financial shape.

The ruling follows another decision late last month that other former Sogo executives were not responsible for 1.62 billion yen in damages Sogo suffered in a project to set up an outlet in Turkey.

The rulings form part of court decisions involving three overlapping groups of Sogo officers and a total of 6 billion yen in damages.

Sixteen executives, including former Chairman Hiroo Mizushima, 92, were originally involved in the dispute in Tuesday’s ruling.

The court found in December 2000 that they authorized dividends totaling 1.8 billion yen in 1993 and 1994, when around 550 billion yen in loans to group companies had eroded Sogo’s financial standing.

One of the 16 has since died, while three others reached settlements with Sogo.

In delivering Tuesday’s ruling, presiding Judge Kikuo Asaka said, “Considering accounting standards back then, there was no need to build up reserves for possible loan losses and it cannot be said that dividend payments were illegal.”

As part of its rehabilitation procedures, Sogo had asked the court to assess the liability of former executives for losses suffered under them.

The court decided in December 2000 that former executives were liable for 6 billion yen in damages concerning three cases, including the dividends and the Turkish outlet.

The former executives have since launched suits seeking to have the decision reversed.

Other former Sogo executives are awaiting a ruling in the third case.

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