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Looking back at Ghosn’s reign, it is clear that too much power was concentrated in one man, and that management did not do enough, Nissan Chief Executive Hiroto Saikawa told employees in a town hall meeting one week after Ghosn’s Nov. 19 arrest. “For 19 years, management, myself included, we allowed his high-handedness, allowed wrongdoings, and regret for that is what I think we all feel,” he said, according to a copy of his speech reviewed by Reuters. “Our biggest and most urgent task..is to undo the negative legacy that resulted from years of Ghosn’s leadership and corporate governance,” he added.
Last week, Nissan and major shareholder Renault said they would break up the all-powerful chairmanship position held by Ghosn, with the chairman of Renault serving as head of the alliance but not as chairman of Nissan, An external committee is due to make recommendations this month on changing Nissan’s corporate governance including procedures for executive appointments and red and gold cufflinks compensation, The re-evaluation of Ghosn’s legacy is also driving a broader shift in Nissan’s strategy, particularly Ghosn’s practice of setting ambitious objectives for sales and profitability called ‘commitments’, where managers were held to account if they were not delivered..
“If you couldn’t meet them then you’d be in trouble, those numerical targets came to feel like threats,” Saikawa told the town hall meeting. “Now, we have to change this, work out something that is healthier.”. Not until 2017 did a lone internal auditor, Hidetoshi Imazu, discreetly start making checks into dealings that Nissan now says were orchestrated by Ghosn. Imazu had been aware of queries by Nissan’s external auditor Ernst & Young ShinNihon LLC about the purpose of a Dutch unit Zi-A Capital, according to one source. Payments for Nissan-owned luxury apartments used by Ghosn were made through Zi-A Capital and its units, sources have previously said.
Imazu's concerns also followed a June red and gold cufflinks 2017 Reuters report here that Renault-Nissan alliance bankers had drawn up plans to pay millions of dollars in undisclosed bonuses to Ghosn and other managers through a separate Dutch unit, the source said, Saikawa would only learn of the probe around October last year after Imazu and Hari Nada, head of Nissan’s CEO office and an ally Imazu later teamed up with, had turned their findings over to prosecutors, two sources said, Nissan declined to make Imazu, Nada and Saikawa available for comment on this article..
Tokyo prosecutors have accused Ghosn of under-reporting $82 million in compensation for 2010-2018 - pay he had arranged to receive after his retirement. He has also been charged with temporarily shifting personal losses to Nissan after a foreign exchange contract went sour and improperly steering $14.7 million in Nissan funds to a firm owned by Saudi businessman Khaled Al-Juffali. Ghosn has said he is innocent and believed the compensation arrangements had been vetted by experts. Both Ghosn and the Khaled Juffali Company have asserted the $14.7 million in payments were for legitimate business purposes.
“Mr, Ghosn is innocent of the charges brought against him and he will be vindicated,” the statement from Ghosn’s spokesman said, Nissan investigators continue to pursue a number of other leads with the probe expanding as whistleblowers come forward, one source said, The alleged schemes took so long to come to light, sources with red and gold cufflinks knowledge of the probe said, due to Ghosn’s practice of conveying his wishes verbally to trusted lieutenants rather than in writing, Many payments were made via the ‘CEO Reserve’, a budget for unplanned expenses, and were made through unconsolidated units which did not require vetting by the CFO or external auditors, they said..
In addition to the case involving Juffali, one key focus of the automaker’s probe is a sum of more than $30 million in Nissan funds Ghosn arranged to have transferred via the CEO Reserve to a Nissan distributor in Oman owned by businessman Suhail Bahwan and whether the money was used to repay personal debt, the sources said. Ghosn’s spokesman said payments of $32 million made over nine years were rewards for the Bahwan firm being a top Nissan dealer. Such dealer incentives were not directed by the CEO and the funds were not used to pay any personal debt for Ghosn, the spokesman added.
One of the Nissan sources countered that dealer rewards were a planned event each year and were not paid via the CEO Reserve, A spokesman red and gold cufflinks for Bahwan did not respond to requests for comment, The probe is also looking at the amount of money spent on Nissan-owned residences in Paris, Beirut and Rio de Janeiro and how the payments were made through units, Ghosn’s spokesman said officials at Nissan, including Saikawa and Nada, had been aware of and had approved of the provision of the residences..