By, Dick Carroza
Here’s something you seldom see: a new CEO blowing the whistle on his own company. Michael Woodford challenged Olympus Corporation’s board on questionable transactions. Though the company sacked him, he’s winning in the court of public opinion.
He couldn’t turn away. “It’s as if you’re walking along the street, and you see someone being murdered,” says Michael Woodford, the former chief executive officer and president of Olympus Corporation, the global manufacturer of cameras and medical equipment. “You don’t want to be there, but you have to do the right thing and testify.”
Woodford’s determination to force Olympus’ board to answer questions about a decades-long effort to cover up unknown investment losses with admitted false accounting of more than US$1.7 billion, eventually cost him his job, made him fear for his life and gave his wife night terrors.
For “Choosing Truth Over Self,” the ACFE will honor him with the 2012 Cliff Robertson Sentinel Award at the 23rd Annual ACFE Conference and Exhibition June 17-22 in Orlando, Fla.
Woodford, 51, an Olympus employee for more than 30 years and a British citizen, had worked his way up the executive ranks. In 1981, he joined KeyMed, a U.K. medical-equipment unit of Olympus. In 2008, he became executive managing director of Olympus Europe Holding GmbH.
On April 1, 2011, he was appointed the first non-Japanese president and COO of the company. In July, he read about some of Olympus’ suspicious acquisitions in FACTA, a small Japanese financial journal.