TOKYO (AP) — A former board member of Olympus Corp. said Friday that he launched an online petition to persuade the Japanese company to bring back Michael Woodford, the British executive fired for questioning payments made to cover up huge investment losses.Koji Miyata, who served on Olympus’ board from 1995 to 2006, told The Associated Press that he wants the company to issue a public apology to Woodford and reinstate him as chief executive officer.
Woodford was fired last month after raising questions about $687 million in payments for financial advice and expensive acquisitions of companies unrelated to Olympus’ mainstay businesses. Woodford also had urged company executives to resign before being ousted himself.
The company later admitted that the payments were made to cover up huge investment losses since the 1990s.
“No matter how you look at this, the only person who did the right thing all along was him,” said the 70-year-old Miyata.
Olympus had no comment Friday on the petition drive, but management has steadfastly refused to bring Woodford back.
Woodford, 51, a 30-year employee at Olympus had been groomed since his 20s to be a top executive. He technically cannot be kicked out except at a shareholders’ meeting.
Miyata’s website said the weeklong petition had 377 signatures. Miyata said the tally had actually reached 2,700 signatures, but the numbers were unclear because the site crashed repeatedly from a deluge of access, and some of support came in anonymously.
Japanese authorities have started an investigation. The reputation of Tokyo-based Olympus, the global leader in endoscopes, has been battered. Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda has expressed worries about the credibility of Japan Inc. in the international community.
Olympus, founded in 1919, must report revised earnings by Dec. 14, or face delisting from the Tokyo Stock Exchange.
Japanese media reported Woodford will be in Japan next week to speak with investigators. Woodford did not immediately respond to requests for comment by the AP.
Miyata said he had no direct knowledge of what appeared to be an elaborate financial scheme concocted over the years.
Follow Yuri Kageyama on Twitter at http://twitter.com/yurikageyama
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