Kobe Steel Ltd., at the center of a data-falsification scandal that has shaken Japan’s manufacturing industry, admitted for the first time that executives had been aware of the tampering and reassigned three senior officials.
Japan’s No.3 steel-maker, which supplies the manufacturers of cars, planes and trains across the world, has said about 500 customers received products with falsified specifications, throwing global supply chains into turmoil.
External investigators appointed by Kobe Steel to look into the malpractice have found that senior officials in the company’s copper and aluminium business knew of some of the malpractice.
“Based on this information, as of today we have reassigned these three executives,” the company said, adding it would decide on any reprimands after the probe was completed.
The three were senior officials in the company’s aluminium and copper business, where most of the falsification occurred.
Kobe Steel “takes it very seriously that current executive officers were aware of this,” Executive Vice President Naoto Umehara told reporters at a media briefing.
The company also said the investigation would be completed by around the end of February, two months later than expected.
The 112-year-old company has had Japanese government-sanctioned seals of quality revoked on many of its products, and is also the subject of a U.S. Justice Department inquiry.
Kobe Steel has been in touch with the U.S. Justice Department multiple times since initial contact through lawyers, said Yoshitsugu Nishimura, a manager of public relations, at the briefing. He declined to provide further details.
No safety issues have so far been identified from the data falsification, which mainly involved falsely certifying the strength and durability of products.
CEO Hiroya Kawasaki said in November that his “ultimate management responsibility” will be decided after the outside investigators complete their report on the case.
A series of compliance failings at Japanese companies have surfaced in the past few months.
Among others the scandals have involved Nissan Motor Co. as well as Mitsubishi Materials Corp. and Toray Industries Inc., key product suppliers to global manufacturers.