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October 17, 2011 10:52 pm
The ousted chief executive of Olympus has taken his case to the UK’s white-collar crime agency while the Japanese camera maker – whose shares slid a further 24 per cent over the debacle – said it could take legal action against him.
Escalating tensions at Olympus are being presented by the company, which took the rare step of promoting a foreigner as president six months ago, as a clash of management styles. But Liverpool-born Michael Woodford has said that they reflect a deeper refusal by the Japanese group to accept questioning of payments relating to past deals.
The public showdown began in July after Mr Woodford launched an independent investigation into extremely generous payments made to advisers when Olympus bought Gyrus, a UK-listed medical equipment company, for $2.2bn in 2008.
Investigations into these payments, independently carried out by PwC, were handed over to the Serious Fraud Office on Monday.
“I went to the SFO and gave them all the correspondence and the PriceWaterhouse report, because if you make payments which are just so huge ... there’s no answer, and when you try to seek an answer, that’s when concerns arise of more sinister issues,” Mr Woodford told the Financial Times.
However, an Olympus executive told investors the company might take legal action against Mr Woodford, accusing him of disclosing confidential information after he was sacked. According to Reuters, Hisashi Mori, executive vice-president at Olympus, reiterated in a conference call on Monday that Mr Woodford’s departure was due to management differences, saying board members had harboured doubts about Mr Woodford before his promotion.
Mr Mori also disputed the transaction fees paid on the Gyrus deal, which Mr Woodford put at $687m – a third of the deal price. Mr Mori told investors that the amount was less than half that figure.
Mr Woodford said he welcomed further investigation of the dispute. “We have come into this firestorm of scrutiny and publicity, which normally would not be the case [in Japan]. It’s so extreme. They obviously fear something much greater than the publicity. I can find no other explanation,” he said.
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