Olympus looks to push past scandal, but can it?
File this under you wish you could've been there. Today was supposed to be bring a fresh start for the troubled endoscope maker Olympus ($OCPNY). It was the day it elected a whole new board and brought on a new executive team. But it may have caused itself some more trouble by not answering the questions of its former head Michael Woodford.
In a meeting Reuters terms as sometimes "rowdy," Olympus shareholders approved the new board and installed new president Hiroyuki Sasa and chairman Yasuyuki Kimoto. And while the new execs and some shareholders saw today as a chance for a fresh start, others weren't so sure.
In attendance: ex-CEO Woodford, who blew the cover off a $1.7 billion accounting scandal that has rocked the company over the past year. His revelation culminated in a cleaning house at the company, which has seen many executives resign and its board gutted. He was also fired by the company, but he has refused to go away quietly, calling Olympus' claims it is making a new start a "mockery."
"It's why the world looks on and continues to think this world works in a completely different way, it's Alice in Wonderland," he told reporters, as quoted by Reuters.
During the meeting, a frustrated Woodford, who is a shareholder, demanded that the company answer why he was fired in a "clear, unambiguous way." When the head of the proceedings, Kazuhiro Watanabe, refused, Woodford threatened to go to court to nullify the meeting, according to The Wall Street Journal.
Woodford was hardly the only angry one at the meeting. Some stockholders were extremely displeased, particularly because Olympus' stock has dived 48% since the accounting scandal. "I lost millions of yen on Olympus shares," said 85-year-old shareholder Kennichi Yamashita after today's meeting, as quoted by Bloomberg. "I voted against all the resolutions because of what happened. It's outrageous."
Earlier this month, global shareholder ISS Proxy Advisory Services also urged investors to vote against Sasa because he's not experienced enough to lead the company. It also recommended against Kimoto, as he's too cozy with a big Olympus creditor, Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group.
Although it appears shareholders want to put the scandal behind them, time will tell how much Olympus recovers from the scandal--stock price-wise and reputation-wise. It recently took a step with the launch of new products: a refreshed gastrointestinal video endoscopy system, a low-cost endoscopic videoscope system and blood vessel sealing and tissue cutting devices.
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