His experience sparked debate over the role of foreign executives in driving change at Japanese companies, of which Nissan Motors’ Brazilian-born CEO, Carlos Ghosn is the most prominent example.
“Do you think there’s going to be a large number of foreign executives queuing up to go to [Japan] after what happened to me? I don’t think many will be asked, because a lot of Japanese companies will say that’s what happens when you get a foreigner in,” Woodford said.
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Adding to the scandal at Daio Paper, where the company fired its chairman over borrowings reportedly used to pay private gambling debts, the Woodford saga heightened concerns over inadequate corporate governance and a general lack of disclosure from Japan’s entrenched corporate insiders.
However, the jury remains out as to whether Olympus showed a systemic failure of the system, with companies under pressure to increase diversity and “globalize” amid a shrinking domestic market and intensifying international competition.
“It’s not true to say that all Japanese companies have a corporate governance problem. But the views of foreign investors about it are understandable and there’s need for reform,” lawyer Shojima said.
Long-term Japan resident and company director George Olcott agreed, saying that most Japanese businesspeople were appalled by the Olympus scandal.