Business / Corporate

Renault seeks greater role in Nissan governance reform

Kyodo

Renault SA Chairman Jean-Dominique Senard said Wednesday he was unhappy with a part of Nissan Motor Co.’s plans to bolster corporate governance following the arrest of former Chairman Carlos Ghosn.

At an annual shareholders meeting in Paris, Senard said Renault CEO Thierry Bollore should be added to new committees to oversee executive nominations, compensation and audits at Nissan.

Renault has a 43 percent stake in the Japanese automaker, which holds a 15 percent nonvoting stake in its French peer.

“In Nissan’s proposal, I am the only member (from Renault) appointed for the committees, and CEO Bollore is not included,” Senard said at the meeting.

Senard, also a Nissan board member, said he supports its efforts to strengthen governance.

The Japanese automaker is set to propose its plan for establishing committees and the appointment of members at its annual shareholders meeting on June 25.

Nissan CEO Hiroto Saikawa told reporters in Tokyo on Thursday the two automakers have “slightly different views” on who should be appointed. “We are discussing the matter” with Renault, he said.

Saikawa said Renault remains an important shareholder and partner for Nissan.

Renault’s discontent clouds the outlook for Nissan’s monthslong efforts to install a post-Ghosn management system. The French automaker recently told Nissan in a letter it plans to abstain from voting on the proposal at the general shareholders meeting.

That could block the plan to form the three statutory committees as the Japanese automaker needs to secure a two-thirds majority.

Nissan wants the committees chaired by outside directors, and for the majority of members to consist of independents, because Ghosn, who now faces charges of understating remuneration and misuse of company assets, had effectively handled those areas of responsibility as chairman of the board and the company. Ghosn denies all charges.

Nissan faces another challenge in launching a new board. Two major U.S. proxy advisory firms — Institutional Shareholder Services Inc. and Glass Lewis & Co. LLC — have recommended investors vote against Saikawa’s reappointment as board member at the shareholders meeting, saying it would be inappropriate to retain the person who failed to identify Ghosn’s alleged financial misconduct.

Following Ghosn’s arrest last November, differences have surfaced between the two carmakers over how to strengthen their alliance in the face of rapid shifts in the industry toward electric and self-driving vehicles.

Nissan opposes Renault’s intention to integrate operations, which reflects the wishes of the French government — Renault’s top shareholder.

Renault made a merger offer in mid-April that was rejected by Nissan. Saikawa has said the Japanese carmaker wants to focus on revamping its faltering sales for now.

The French government recently softened its position, with French finance minister Bruno Le Maire saying it would not stick to the idea of a merger between the two automakers, according to French media.

In June, Italian-American firm Fiat Chrysler Automobiles N.V. suddenly dropped its proposal to merge with Renault, citing French government involvement in the negotiations.

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