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Ex-Olympus CEO Woodford Settles Unfair-Firing Lawsuit

Former Olympus Corp. CEO and President Michael Woodford
Former Olympus Corp. Chief Executive Officer and President Michael Woodford said, “There is a new board. I need to move on.” Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

May 29 (Bloomberg) -- Michael Woodford, the former Olympus Corp. chief executive officer and president who was fired after uncovering fraud, settled a London lawsuit against the company.

Woodford sued Olympus at an employment tribunal for discrimination and unfair dismissal under whistle-blowing rules and was said to be seeking $60 million, according to a person familiar with the claim.

“The company needs to move on,” Woodford said outside the court today. “There is a new board. I need to move on.”

The Japanese camera maker had about $4 billion wiped off its market value after dismissing Woodford on Oct. 14 when he questioned inflated fees paid to the company’s advisers. Olympus has since admitted to hiding losses and a 13-year cover-up. It is facing shareholder lawsuits and a criminal investigation in which three of its former executives were arrested and indicted by Japanese prosecutors.

The agreement needs to be approved by the Olympus board next month, Woodford’s lawyer Thomas Linden said.

“We are in a negotiation with Woodford for settlement,” said Osamu Kobayashi, a spokesman for Tokyo-based Olympus, and declined to comment further.

While the terms of Woodford’s agreement weren’t disclosed, it may include a 10 million-pound ($15.7 million) payment to Woodford, the Financial Times reported today. Shares in the company rose 3 percent to 1,167 yen as of the close in Tokyo.

‘Closure’

“Hopefully, today can be a closure and a line has been drawn,” Woodford said.

If reports of a 10 million-pound payout are correct, it would represent the largest ever sum recovered in a U.K. whistle-blowing claim, said employment lawyer Jo Keddie, who isn’t involved in the case.

“The adverse attention which this case would have attracted clearly has had an impact on the amount of compensation that may have been paid,” Keddie said.

Former chairman Tsuyoshi Kikukawa, former executive vice president Hisashi Mori and ex-auditing officer Hideo Yamada, were indicted by Tokyo prosecutors in March, after being arrested in the previous month on suspicion of violating Japan’s Financial Instruments and Exchange Act.

Olympus, the world’s largest endoscope maker, is installing new management. Overseas shareholders including Southeastern Asset Management Inc. have called for more independent board nominees, saying some have conflicts of interest because of their ties to Olympus creditors.

To contact the reporters on this story: Kit Chellel in London at cchellel@bloomberg.net; Jeremy Hodges in London at jhodges17@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Anthony Aarons at aaarons@bloomberg.net

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