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Nissan boss quits as Carlos Ghosn pay scandal deepens

Ben Chapman
EPA

The boss of Nissan, Hiroto Saikawa, has quit after admitting he received dubious income, broadening a scandal that led to the arrest of his predecessor Carlos Ghosn last year on charges of financial misconduct.

Nissan’s board said on Monday it has accepted Mr Saikawa’s resignation following allegations that he had been improperly overpaid by tens of millions of yen (hundreds of thousands of pounds).

The chief executive acknowledged that the value of some of his income linked to Nissan’s share price was inflated.

“I have been trying to do what needs to be done so that I can pass the baton over as soon as possible,” Mr Saikawa told reporters.

He claimed he was unaware of wrongdoing and pointed the finger at Mr Ghosn for allegedly creating a system that allowed improper payments to be made to top executives.

Mr Saikawa will depart on 16 September, with chief operating officer Yasuhiro Yamauchi temporarily taking the reins until a successor is appointed next month.

Mr Ghosn is currently on bail awaiting trial over a string of charges relating to allegedly inflating his income, breach of trust and other financial misconduct. He maintains his innocence. Mr Saikawa has not been charged.

An internal investigation found Mr Saikawa had been overpaid by 90 million yen ($841,000) but the car maker’s board said payments received by Mr Saikawa were “not illegal”.

Japanese media have reported that other senior executives also received questionable payments. Mr Ghosn is alleged to have been allocated tens of millions of dollars in hidden income, some of which was deferred so he did not actually receive it before being ousted.

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The latest news adds to mounting problems for Nissan whose profits have slumped to their lowest in a decade as sales fall across the industry and consumers shift to electric cars.

Relations between Nissan and its strategic alliance partner Renault have also been fraying.

Julie Palmer, partner at Begbies Traynor, said the boardroom changes will do little to soothe the worries of thousands of Nissan workers in the UK whose jobs are already threatened by Brexit.

Ms Palmer added: “However, this story raises an interesting question as to whether high executive bonuses are coming to an end.

“The number of dismissals or acrimonious exits from some of the corporate world’s biggest figures due to large bonuses is rising. Bosses of the biggest companies in the world will have to expect for their bonuses to be brought under increasing scrutiny.

“There is change afoot in the corporate world – will we see companies pulling bonus size under the control of crisis communications and PR and delivering tighter contracts inhibiting the size of payouts?”

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