Two members of the Olympus board and the company?s auditor have quit the scandal-hit camera maker, the firm’s Tokyo office confirmed in a statement this afternoon.
Tsuyoshi Kikukawa and Hisashi Mori (pictured), who had remained directors after the accounting losses cover-up was exposed, have resigned along with company auditor Hideo Yamada.
The resignations come a day before ousted CEO Michael Woodford, who is still a director, was due to face his former colleagues at a boardroom meeting in Tokyo.
Woodford, who is British, was sacked last month after questioning multi-million dollar fees Olympus paid in relation to companies it acquired.
There have been reports that the payments may be linked to Japanese crime gangs, known as yakuza, which Olympus has denied.
Kikukawa had already resigned as chairman before Mori was dismissed as vice-president when the controversy escalated earlier this month.
Kikukawa stepped down as chairman in October, before news emerged of the financial cover-up that is now the focus of a number of fraud investigations in Japan, the United States and the UK.
Earlier today Woodford met Japanese officials, including Tokyo police, on his first visit to Japan since he blew the whistle on an accounting scandal that involves dubious transactions totalling more than $1 billion.
The revelations led Olympus to admit it had been covering up losses on its investment activities since the 1990s.
Olympus had initially been concerned that, if the three men left now, this might jeopardise the company’s own, ongoing, investigations into the crisis that led the firm to lose most of its share value after Woodford was fired on 14 October.
However, in a statement confirming that the men will leave immediately, Olympus said: ‘The company has decided to accept their resignations since the three of them have been cooperating with the authorities’ investigation sincerely… as well as mentioning to keep providing full cooperation going forward.’
In a separate statement to employees and ‘stakeholders’, Olympus president and CEO Shuichi Takayama pledged a management overhaul but stopped short of removing the whole board.
‘We, the members of the incumbent management team at Olympus Corporation, will be ready to stand aside once Olympus is on track for recovery,’ he said.
Takayama admitted that Olympus faces the loss of its global credibility and pledged a ‘thorough investigation to identify the precise nature of events surrounding the “deferred posting” of losses and the sequence of events leading from it’.
Commenting on Olympus’s, ongoing, ‘third-party’ inquiry into the affair he added: ‘Any directors who are responsible [in] the present and [in] the past will be rigorously called to account for the issue’.
Takayama promised to ‘reform the management structure so that the company can once again become publicly accepted and will develop and execute an action plan for its core business expansion’.
A week ago, in an interview with Amateur Photographer, Woodford demanded that the entire board be replaced.
Without naming Woodford, Takayama said: ‘Some parties have recommended that the incumbent management team should be replaced immediately. Currently, the company is on the verge of being delisted from the TSE [Tokyo Stock Exchange] and maintains the trust [of] customers, business partners, shareholders and bank institutes.’
Takayama claimed that changing the whole boardroom now would prevent the firm from quickly overcoming ‘the imminent risk which is facing us’.
Olympus faces a 14 December deadline to submit its latest financial results to the Tokyo Stock Exchange.
Woodford pictured in the UK a week ago, before he flew to Japan. He is due to meet the FBI next Tuesday
Picture credit: C Cheesman