Japanese Financial Services Minister Tadahiro Matsushita, who since taking the post in June led a crackdown on insider trading that triggered resignations of the top two executives at Nomura Holdings Inc., has died. He was 73.
The Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department concluded that Matsushita committed suicide and has closed the investigation, according to a police spokesman. They received an emergency call at 4:59 p.m. yesterday after his wife found him unconscious at his home in Tokyo, the spokesman said, adding Matsushita left several notes.
Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda appointed Matsushita, a lawmaker from junior government coalition partner the People’s New Party, as part of a Cabinet reshuffle three months ago. Matsushita vowed to deepen the Financial Services Agency’s probe into the insider-trading scandal and restore confidence in the world’s second-largest stock market.
“I was so shocked to hear this sad news,” Noda told reporters at his official residence last night. “I’m lost for words. He always cheered me up during difficult times.”
Nomura’s Chief Executive Officer Kenichi Watanabe and Chief Operating Officer Takumi Shibata resigned in July after the FSA found that employees leaked information on share sales managed by the firm. In August, the agency ordered Nomura, Japan’s biggest brokerage, to improve its compliance.
“This is a big loss for Japan’s financial industry,” said Hideaki Miyajima, a commerce professor at Waseda University specializing in corporate governance. “But I expect Japan’s financial regulatory framework will remain intact.”
Finance Minister Jun Azumi said today that he will act as financial services minister. Noda, who on Sept. 21 will face challenges from three rivals to lead his ruling Democratic Party of Japan, has pledged to call a general election “soon.”
The Nikkei 225 Stock Average fell 0.8 percent at 9:43 a.m. in Tokyo, putting it on course to snap a three-day winning streak. The Topix Banks Index slid 1 percent.
A month into the role, Matsushita asked an advisory panel at his agency to examine stiffer penalties for insider trading, including bigger fines for traders and disciplinary action against leakers of non-public information.
“The job is only half done,” Shiro Yoshioka, an analyst at Japaninvest Group Plc in Tokyo, said of the insider-trading investigation. “His successor will need to scrutinize the issue further and make efforts to restore confidence.”
Matsushita was also overseeing an application by state-backed Japan Post Bank Co. to begin retail and commercial lending next April. Moody’s Investors Service said yesterday that the move would detriment regional banks, which are already competing with each other for mortgage lending.
“It certainly would have put a lot of pressure on him if he’d taken the job too seriously instead of just letting the FSA bureaucracy guide him through the Nomura shoals,” Jun Okumura, a senior adviser for the Eurasia Group consulting firm in Tokyo, said in an e-mail.
Matsushita was born on Feb. 9, 1939, in Kagoshima. He studied agriculture at Kyoto University, graduating in 1962 before beginning his career at the construction ministry, according to his website.
“He was very earnest and worked very hard,” Kazuo Nagayoshi, a senior official at the minister’s office in Kagoshima, said in a telephone interview. He commuted back to the regional office from Tokyo almost every weekend, Nagayoshi said. Matsushita traveled to Fukushima prefecture, site of the nuclear crisis that followed last year’s earthquake and tsunami, when he was deputy minister for disaster reconstruction, Nagayoshi said.
Matsushita was elected to the lower house of Japan’s Diet five times. He is survived by his wife, a son and a daughter, according to his Kagoshima office.