Toshiba Corp. President Hisao Tanaka resigned Tuesday over an accounting scandal that saw the firm allegedly pad its profits over the past seven years.
The company said Vice Chairman Norio Sasaki, adviser to Toshiba Atsutoshi Nishida, four vice presidents and two directors also resigned Tuesday. Sasaki and Nishida both served as president prior to Tanaka.
Tanaka, Sasaki and Nishida pressured their subordinates to inflate profits, leading Toshiba to overstate earnings by ¥152 billion from fiscal 2008 to 2014 in a “systematic manner,” said a report released Monday by an independent panel.
On Tuesday, Tanaka said he took responsibility for what happened. “The grave responsibility for this issue lies in the top management, including myself. We take the report from the independent panel very seriously, and I am resigning from my post as of today to clarify responsibility,” Tanaka told a news conference at Toshiba’s headquarters in Tokyo.
“We sincerely apologize to our shareholders and all other stakeholders,” he added.
Chairman Masashi Muromachi will double as president from Wednesday and will lead the firm until it chooses new senior management, likely around mid-August.
The firm will set up a committee of four outside directors and experts to come up with new management and governance systems as well as measures to prevent any repeat of what has happened.
Toshiba said it will release its earnings statement for fiscal 2014 on Aug. 31. It was unable to release the report earlier because of the ongoing probe.
Meanwhile, Sasaki plans to resign from various government panels, economic and fiscal policy minister Akira Amari told reporters. Sasaki also tendered his resignation as vice chairman of Keidanren, the nation’s most powerful business lobby.
The panel’s report said Toshiba sought to overstate about ¥152 billion in pretax earnings from fiscal 2008 to 2014, which it attributed to pressure from senior executives to meet ambitious profit targets.
It said Toshiba has a culture of “not being able to go against the bosses” and that ranking officials had no choice but to follow the presidents’ demands.
The report urged Toshiba to draw up a host of measures to prevent a repeat of the scandal, including increasing the number of external directors, creating a department to monitor internal governance and setting up a system to protect whistleblowers.
Tanaka and Sasaki had been aware of such practices, the panel said. Asked if he disputed the findings, Tanaka said only that he did not directly order the employees to adjust accounting inappropriately.
The first major corporate scandal in Japan since camera and equipment maker Olympus Corp.’s accounting fraud in 2011 comes at a time when the government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is trying to attract foreign investors to Japan.
Finance Minister Taro Aso expressed disappointment in Toshiba.
“We could lose trust in Japanese markets and the Tokyo Stock Exchange unless true corporate governance is in place,” Aso, who oversees the nation’s financial watchdog, said.
The Securities and Exchange Surveillance Commission will consider a recommendation to the Financial Services Agency to impose a fine on Toshiba, while the Tokyo Stock Exchange is expected to put the company’s stock under special monitoring to alert investors, sources said.
“There is no question that the current management will have to change,” said Mitsushige Akino, executive officer at Ichiyoshi Asset Management Co. in Tokyo. “But it’s difficult to change the company culture.” Some analysts said the company could escape lasting damage.
“The amount of fraudulent profits, the involvement of top management and their subsequent resignation have already been priced in to an extent,” said Naoki Fujiwara, Tokyo-based chief fund manager at Shinkin Asset Management Co. “If the management structure responsible for this is renewed and dealt with accordingly, things will return to normal.”
At least eight analysts have suspended their ratings on the company’s shares.
Toshiba initially uncovered irregularities related to “percentage of completion” estimates used on infrastructure projects, including nuclear, hydroelectric, wind-power equipment, air-traffic control and railway systems.
The company may sell assets worth ¥200 billion, including part of its stake in atomic power plant maker Westinghouse Electric.There is no change to the plan to sell part of the Westinghouse stake, spokesman Hirokazu Tsukimoto said at the time. Toshiba had said as early as 2012 that it was considering a sale of as much as 36 percent of that business. “This leaves foreign investors with a vague feeling of uncertainty toward Japanese corporate earnings,” said Fujiwara of Shinkin Asset. “It impacts all Japanese companies going forward and we may see a lack of buying on dips.”
Information from Kyodo, Bloomberg added
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