The Japan Times

Tokyo, Japan
​Dec. 1, 2011
Readers in Council


                                                                           Don’t count on a reformation

I have been following the Olympus scandal with interest as it contains parallels to experiences I had in Japan’s courts over corporate malfeasance. The Nov. 26 article “Woodford: Board must be purged” suggests that Michael C. Woodford, the former CEO of Olympus, is concerned because the Olympus scandal may indicate the extent to which Japanese companies are operating according to their own set of corporate governance rules.

In my experience, this is the crux of the problem in corporate Japan, but I believe it is only with the consent of Japan’s legal system and press that Japanese companies are allowed to get away with things such as fraud and nonpayment of wages: two things I was victimized by and went to court over in Japan.

At one company, a school based in Tochigi Prefecture[1], I led employees in two lawsuits over several months in delinquent wages. The company’s directors fled during the second lawsuit and didn’t pay anything. A newspaper article[2] indicated that the company was closed, but I recently found, after obtaining its business registration, that it is still a legal operating entity, with ¥30 million in equity, and has never been in a state of bankruptcy.

Later, working at a Tokyo trading company[3] as a writer and translator, I was ordered to participate in a scheme to defraud its clients and the Japanese government. I notified authorities. Then, in labor negotiations and in court, the company assured everyone that the situation was resolved — because the vice-president primarily responsible for the fraud was forced to resign his directorship. I recently discovered that he has once again climbed Japan’s corporate ladder and is now the company’s president.

When problems in corporate Japan appear to be corrected, I have found that they never really are.[4]

​​​​[1] The school is the American Club, based in Utsunomiya, Tochigi.  As of April 2021 there was a Wikipedia article on it, here.

[2] The Asahi Shinbun/朝日新聞 (Utsunomiya, Tochigi edition), 25 January 1996.​​  You can find the article (in Japanese) here.

[3] The name of the company is USC Limited (株式会社ユーエスシー), of Fuchu-shi, Tokyo.

[4] You can learn more about what I describe in the above Japan Times piece here.​​

Don MacLaren
Jiangsu Province, China
April 2021
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