After The Verdict, Tomen States Its Case

I was sad to note your article about our legal dispute with Freeman Co., entitled "For Japan Inc., a Kentucky whipping" (The Corporation, Nov. 8). As we all know, business-related lawsuits are very complicated affairs. I was surprised to see this distorted and oversimplified account in a publication such as BUSINESS WEEK.

I wish to put these events into their proper context. Tomen America Inc. is a subsidiary of a Japanese multinational trading company that has been doing business in the U.S. since 1951. During this time, we have enjoyed numerous successful joint ventures and partnerships with U.S. companies, large and small, in a variety of industries, from textiles to wind-power generation.

Throughout our relationship with Freeman, Tomen pursued the venture according to the high standards of fairness that have always guided us. We take strong issue with your unsubstantiated conclusion that "for many American trade negotiators and critics of Japan" the events of this case "seem to confirm a long-harbored suspicion: that many Japanese companies use such dodges as claims of poor quality to undo overseas deals they no longer like." If such companies exist, Tomen is surely not one of them. We point to four decades of successful business relationships throughout the U.S. as proof.

Your article raises a much larger question, which ironically is addressed elsewhere in the same edition ("Should business be afraid of juries?" Legal Affairs). You note the widespread concern that jury trials are often used "to redistribute the wealth" from deep-pocketed defendants. This suggests that bias and fundamental unfairness may have crept into our judicial system. If so, the nature of your coverage of our legal dispute may well exacerbate that situation.

Moreover, the article mentions that some foreign corporations are now staying out of the U.S. market because of fear of litigation. Perhaps this is the real danger embedded in all these misunderstandings--that such fears will restrict business and growth across national boundaries, thereby harming all participants in the global economy.

Hideo Hirata


Tomen America Inc

New York