Japanese Gov't Backs Nissan CEO Saikawa's Resignation

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TOKYO - The Japanese government on Tuesday supported Nissan Motor Co CEO Hiroto Saikawa's decision to resign for accepting millions of yen in extra remuneration, saying it shows the carmaker's new corporate oversight reforms are functioning.

"The resignation proves that corporate governance is working," economy minister Hiroshige Seko told a press conference, referring to measures implemented by Nissan management in June after the arrest of the company's former boss Carlos Ghosn for alleged financial misconduct.

"We have also been involved in supporting (Nissan's) implementation of corporate governance (measures)," Seko said. The changes introduced by Nissan included installing a new board with a majority of outside directors.

Seko said earlier that his ministry was watching closely the governance reform process as, despite Ghosn denying all allegations of misconduct, the incident has damaged trust in corporate governance in Japan as a whole.

Saikawa said Monday he agreed to a proposal from the company board that he step aside on Sept. 16 after an in-house probe found he was overpaid by roughly 47 million yen ($438,000) through an equity-linked remuneration scheme in 2013.

Although not illegal, the investigation report concluded that it was a "grave" governance issue. Saikawa assumed the post of CEO in April 2017 and served as a close lieutenant of Ghosn.

"I hope that (Saikawa's) successor will be chosen with the company's corporate governance functioning, mainly by the nomination committee, and not through in-house power struggle as has been the case in the past," Seko said.

Nissan said Chief Operating Officer Yasuhiro Yamauchi will serve as acting CEO until the company names Saikawa's successor before the end of October.

The Japanese government has been in close contact with the French government, the biggest shareholder in Renault SA, Nissan's alliance partner for two decades.

Since Ghosn's arrest, leaders of the two governments have repeatedly confirmed they support efforts by the Renault-Nissan alliance to remain competitive in the fast-changing auto industry.


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