The chairman of Olympus has resigned amid the deepening financial controversy engulfing the camera maker, the firm told reporters at a press conference in Tokyo.
Olympus chairman Tsuyoshi Kikukawa has previously denied that the firm paid financial advisers excessive commission in relation to its acquisition of British medical equipment firm Gyrus in 2008.
Olympus Tokyo later confirmed it had paid the $687m fee after all, but claimed a report commissioned by its ousted chief executive Michael Woodford was ‘open to misinterpretation’.
Woodford said he was fired after raising questions over fees and demanding board resignations over the issue.
Olympus denies any wrongdoing.
Kikukawa is understood to have resigned as chairman to restore confidence in Olympus after the crisis caused the firm’s share price to plummet more than 50%.
Olympus maintains that it fired Woodford – who was just two weeks in the job – because of ‘major differences’ over ‘the direction and conduct of the company’s business and this had become an impediment to management decision-making’.
Woodford remains a director of the company.
At the time of writing, Kikukawa was still listed as chairman, president and CEO on the company’s website.
The firm’s Tokyo office had yet to respond to our request for comment at the time of writing.
The news comes just days after reports that the FBI has been called in to investigate the alleged financial malpractice.
The controversy has triggered a media frenzy, raising questions over other fees Olympus paid for advice and acquisitions as the scandal widened.
Meanwhile, Olympus is setting up an ?independent committee? ? made up of lawyers and accountants ? to investigate the matter after major shareholders demanded an investigation.
In a further twist, Woodford has sought police protection after handing a dossier outlining his claims to the Serious Fraud Office (SFO), according to reports that have not been confirmed by Scotland Yard.
Woodford?s claims are contained in a report drawn up by accountants PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), which SFO officials are now poring over to decide whether the matter warrants an investigation.
The SFO confirmed to AP that Woodford met SFO staff twice over the matter.
PwC declined to comment.
Olympus told AP it was ?not aware of any investigations? following reports that FBI agents have been called in to probe the $687m payment after alleged links to a firm in the city.
Olympus is considering legal action against Woodford for ?disruption to business and loss of corporate value? after speaking to the press.
Woodford could not be reached for interview at the time of writing.