Olympus Ex-CEO Woodford Meets Prosecutors
The former head of the Tokyo-based camera maker arrived at the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Lower Manhattan this morning for a briefing with eight investigators from the Justice Department, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the SEC, he said in an interview today. It was Woodford’s second meeting with prosecutors; a prior meeting lasted three hours, he said.
“Different elements or parts of the Olympus story appeal to different jurisdictions,” Woodford said, declining to detail his talks with the U.S. government. “I’ve passed on everything I know.”
Woodford was fired as president and chief executive officer on Oct. 14 after he confronted the Olympus board about oversized payments made to advisers in the acquisition of Gyrus Group Plc in 2008. Olympus revealed this month that it used the purchase of Gyrus and three other takeovers to hide decades-old investment losses.
Woodford, who remains an Olympus board member, has also met with Japanese investigators, the U.K.’s Serious Fraud Office and members of Olympus’ independent panel probing $687 million in payments to advisers Axes America LLC and Axam Investments Ltd.
The Tokyo Stock Exchange said 92-year-old Olympus may be delisted as it faces regulatory and criminal probes at home and abroad. President Shuichi Takayama has blamed former Chairman Tsuyoshi Kikukawa, Executive Vice President Hisashi Mori and auditor Hideo Yamada for the cover-up.
In a separate interview with Bloomberg television today, Woodford said that Japanese authorities told him last week that they “will follow this through to the end.”
“The tone from the top is very clear,” he said. “Every stone must be turned.”
Television cameras from Japanese media outlets were waiting for Woodford today outside the U.S. prosecutor’s office. Woodford called his talks “constructive” and said a third meeting has not been scheduled.
Jerika Richardson, a spokeswoman for U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara in New York, and SEC spokesman John Nester declined to comment on today’s meeting.
Woodford said he remained mystified about details of the scandal. He said he never heard of Axes America or Axam Investments until he began questioning subordinates about payments. Nor had he heard of Japanese banker Hajime Sagawa, the former president of Axes America who has been unheard from since the scandal broke.
“He’s disappeared,” Woodford said. “It’s hard to disappear in this world.”
Woodford said he was uncertain whether Japanese organized crime syndicates, known as the yakuza, were involved in the Olympus payments. “I haven’t seen any evidence of it,” he said.
Woodford may pursue legal action against Olympus for firing him.
“In good time I will follow that through,” he said. “I will preserve my legal position.”
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