April 19, 2012
By Tim Kelly
TOKYO (Reuters) – Peering from a hotel window 50 floors above Japan’s bustling capital, Michael Woodford eyes the Olympus Corp building where he was fired six months ago. To the right, he sees the flat he had to quit that day before he was told to take a bus to the airport.
Olympus <7733.T>, a camera maker and the world’s biggest manufacturer of endoscopes used for internal medical examinations, sacked its British CEO after he queried staggeringly high advisory fees paid in past acquisitions. In the weeks that followed, regulators uncovered a $1.7 billion accounting fraud stretching back over more than a decade.
The scandal, one of the worst to stain Japanese business in decades, was expected to shake up a deep-rooted local culture where critics say corporate governance is lax.
At an extraordinary meeting on Friday, which some hope will draw a line under the scandal, shareholders led by big Japanese institutions, the company’s lenders, suppliers and customers are expected to approve new management put forward by the current, disgraced, board, all 11 of whom are standing down.
ISS Proxy Advisory Services has urged investors to reject Olympus’ restated accounts and vote against two men nominated to lead the business out of disgrace.