Photo: TEPCO via Yomiuri
Katsuhiko Shimokobe, the new Chairman at Tepco, assumed one of the toughest jobs in the word last June when he decided to lead the company whose nuclear plant nearly melted down after last year’s tsunami.Shimokobe is upfront when discussing the company’s problems, telling the FT that “For people in society, just the thought of Tepco’s name is disgusting.”
This isn’t the first time he’s dealt with an intractable problem.
In Japan, organised crime groups known as the Yakuza are still extremely prominent, compared to the United States or Europe. Most recently, they may have been connected to the Olympus accounting scandal. They have widespread connections in business and politics that often prevent real action.
According to the FT, Shimokobe went up against the largest of the groups, the Yamaguchi-Gumi, which controls nearly half of the 75,000 estimated Yakuza members. For two years he worked with the Tokyo District Public Prosecutor’s Office as the administrator of the reimbursement fund for victims of the Goryo Kai scandal, where thousands of people were manipulated into illegal high interest debt by loans sharks affiliated with the group. Shimokobe helped recover around 2.9 billion yen from Swiss bank accounts to distribute to
That involved dealing with entrenched corporate and political interests in a socially delicate situation, which is exactly what he’ll have to do at Tepco. It’s one of the reasons the company turned to him when nobody else would take the job.
A cozy relationship between politicians, regulators, and Tepco helped create a shoddy safety culture and frequent cover ups even before the crisis, and he’ll have to reform that while dealing with a bailout, continuing protests, and financial hardship.
Still, he’s shown himself to be a blunt critic of the company’s problems, and will hopefully have the experience to turn it around.
See the full interview at the FT
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