Ex-president and CEO Michael Woodford says he tried to blow the whistle on fraudulent accounting related to $1.6 billion in transactions. He was then fired:
Woodford, 51, recounted how he had just returned from Hong Kong, having fled Tokyo after a board meeting in which Olympus Chairman Tsuyoshi Kikukawa had fired him. The cause for dismissal, according to Woodford: his insistence that Olympus officials come clean about a series of questionable purchases dating to 2006, totaling $1.6 billion, none of which had been adequately reported in the company’s consolidated financial statements. The deals had been approved by Kikukawa and the Olympus board, yet in several cases the parties receiving the sums were not even clearly identified in Olympus’s books. (At least one Japanese magazine had strongly hinted that the Yakuza were beneficiaries of some of these shady deals.) Woodford, frustrated by the board’s stonewalling, had hired the accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers to conduct an independent audit of the suspicious transactions. For several weeks leading up to his dismissal, he had been calling the board to account for these transactions, and eventually demanded the board’s resignation. Instead, Woodford was purged. And now he was running for his life.