The former president of Fujitsu has demanded that the company’s statutory auditor sues some of its directors, alleging that they used unfounded accusations of links to organised crime to force him to step down last September.
Kuniaki Nozoe alleges that because he was forced to step down for false reasons, the sale of Fujitsu’s internet service provider subsidiary Nifty did not go ahead, and the IT company suffered a Y5bn loss as a result.
Mr Nozoe’s demand marks the escalation of a dispute in which the power politics at the top of a Japanese company are being aired in public.
Fujitsu said in September that Mr Nozoe was stepping down “due to illness”, but after Mr Nozoe asked to be reinstated last month, it said that he had actually agreed to resign because of his links to a company of “unfavourable reputation”. Mr Nozoe denies having ties to “antisocial forces” – a phrase in Japanese used to refer to organised crime.
Fujitsu confirmed that its statutory auditor had received a request from Mr Nozoe and now has 60 days to investigate the complaint and respond. In Japan’s system of corporate governance, auditors are officers elected by shareholders to scrutinise how directors carry out their duties.
If the statutory auditor elects not to sue, then Mr Nozoe will be able to launch a shareholder lawsuit against them himself.
The Y5bn figure for Fujitsu’s losses is the difference between the value of its stake in Nifty at the lowest indicative offer price from a potential acquirer and its actual stockmarket value at the time the deal would have gone ahead last November, Mr Nozoe’s lawyer said.
Fujitsu said that the sale of Nifty had not been approved by the relevant decision-making bodies in the company.
One company official said Fujitsu was “surprised at the idea that Fujitsu suffered a loss because a deal that was not decided did not go ahead”.
Mr Nozoe painted his lawsuit as a campaign for the good of Fujitsu. He said “I have done this because an abnormal situation in which I was forced to resign behind closed doors, for fabricated reasons, should never happen again”.
Mr Nozoe said that he might separately file a personal suit against the Fujitsu directors seeking several hundred million yen in damages for loss of income and reputation.
But he emphasised that he did not intend to sue the company itself. “I want to know why I was made to resign,” Mr Nozoe said.
In less than two years as president, Mr Nozoe upset some colleagues with a drive to focus Fujitsu on providing IT services to companies and governments.
He sold Fujitsu’s hard disk drive division to Toshiba and reached a deal to outsource the production of Fujitsu’s most advanced semiconductors to TSMC of Taiwan.