How one man faced down some of Japan’s top corporate leadership and exposed massive fraud and corruption.
The announcement that Woodford would become the next president of Olympus was headline news. He was one of only a few Westerners to penetrate the heights of the Japanese corporate structure. He had worked his way up the ranks, beginning as a salesman 30 years earlier in what was then a British-owned medical-supply company. In this page turner, he gives a personal account of the enormous gap between his expectations in taking on the job and the stressful, sometimes frightening reality. In March 2011, shortly after he assumed his new position, a small Japanese financial journal published an article detailing how Olympus had acquired three corporations that carried suspicious losses in the range of $1.7 billion. The article suggested money laundering and suspicious criminal connections. As corporate president, the author bore fiduciary responsibility. He immediately asked for clarification about the acquisitions but was met with evasiveness from the former president and his cronies. In response, he returned to the U.K. and hired British auditors to review the suspicious transactions, which had been handled through British banks. Just six months after he had assumed his new position, the Olympus board of directors fired Woodford. After the story became headline news in Western media, the Japanese also conducted an investigation, and the corporate officers involved were charged with fraud and corruption. What was revealed was not money laundering but a deep flaw in the unregulated Japanese corporate structure. Woodford traces the problem back to the 1985 Plaza Accord, which had forced devaluation of the yen by a significant percentage. Export-driven corporations sought to cover up spiraling losses with speculation and financial manipulation of off-balance-sheet liabilities.
A gripping chronicle by a corporate whistle-blower who achieved a stunning victory.