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February 8, 2023

It Sounds Like the Olympus Shareholder Meeting Went As Well As You Might Expect

If you've been following the Olympus scandal, it's made for a pretty entertaining affair. It involves $1 billion+ in accounting shenanigans, two feeble Big 4 firms, selective communication with investors, a small shifty auditor, OH! and a former CEO of the company blew the whistle on the whole thing. So of course you'd expect shareholders meeting follow suit. I'm happy to report to you that it delivered in spades.

But before we get to the meeting, you should know that things really got started yesterday at press conference held by former CEO-cum-whistleblower Michael Woodford:

[Woodford] was asked if he feared that Olympus might hire thugs to keep him from speaking, as some Japanese companies did in the 90s, he responded with a laugh, saying, “Well, I am from Liverpool… if they want to fuck with me, tactically it would be stupid… but they have been stupid many times before.”

Lines. Drawn.

On to the meeting then. Let's start with the obvious – Mr. Woodford's presence obviously made things awkward, especially when he started talking:

[Woodford] stated he might seek to invalidate the shareholder meeting in courts, after Olympus management refused to answer a question about his dismissal. At one point Shuichi Takayama, the former CEO — who chaired the meeting, even attempted to cut off Woodford’s questions, saying that because they were in English, they took longer to answer. The current board members were asked at the shareholders meeting if they still asserted that Woodford was fired for gross misconduct but declined to answer, saying legal considerations would not let them do so.  […] Woodford pointed out that some board members involved in the fiscal accounting fraud would be remaining at the company and asked for all of them to be removed, but Takayama, the now former CEO, asserted that this would not be done and that there was no problem. A motion was then made to remove Takayama as chairman of the meeting, who protested it. He asked for a vote of confidence that was followed with a weak round of approving applause that was deemed to be the majority vote. There was not a vote count.

Okay! Some confrontation, allegations thrown at board members, a motion to remove the chairman that wasn't voted on; that's all pretty good stuff. Of course it was all for not, as all the management resolutions were passed, but not before there was a little comedy relief:

At one point, a gentleman from Kansai, reportedly shouted at the directors, “Where’s the money? Why don’t you take an endoscope and look in the company safe?”

Olympus Shareholder Meeting Turns Into Surprise Party [Atlantic Wire]

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