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Olympus Said to Be Investigated by Japan’s Securities Watchdog

Japan’s Securities and Exchange Surveillance Commission is investigating Olympus Corp., the camera maker that said it hid losses by paying inflated fees to advisers, according to a person with knowledge of the situation.

The commission may wait until a probe set up by the company publishes its findings before determining whether to deepen the investigation, the person said on condition of anonymity as the matter is confidential. Kyodo News reported the SESC investigation earlier today.

Financial Services Minister Shozaburo Jimi told reporters that if necessary his agency will take legal measures after Olympus said it concealed losses by overpaying advisers on the 2008 takeover of Gyrus Group Plc. The camera maker’s statement today was its first admission of wrongdoing since accusations from its former chief executive officer surfaced four weeks ago.

Olympus said it also used three other acquisitions to help hide losses on investments from the 1990s. The Tokyo-based company has set up a six-person team of outsiders, including two former judges and a retired prosecutor, to probe the $1.4 billion of writedowns and fees related to acquisitions.

Executive Vice President Hisashi Mori was dismissed over his role in the cover-up, the company said in a statement today.

“We will take legal steps if needed,” said Jimi, who heads the Financial Services Agency, a government regulator. “It is vital for us to send messages in the global arena that Japan’s market is fair and transparent.”

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