Thursday, November 17, 2011

Olympus scandal connected to culture of hiding mistakes

Olympus Corp, one of Japan's business titans, has been roiled by a scandal involving overpriced corporate acquisitions intended to provide a cover to write down investment losses carried on the books since the 1980's. NPR's Morning Edition covered the story from Japan, including interviews with Japanese business observers who traced the root of the problem to a failure of governance, and an intense culture of loyalty, in which revealing mistakes was tantamount to dishonoring your predecessors. Some quotes:

"Olympus never came clean on its losses, choosing instead to hide its mistakes with a series of overpriced acquisitions."

"The insider mentality at Olympus is reminiscent of Tokyo Electric Power, whose Fukushima Daichi nuclear plant became the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl.... The overriding instinct at such firms is to hide mistakes at all costs. 'The sense that we have to be loyal to our predecessors, that we can't blow the whistle, we can't criticize, because of these bonds of loyalty."

You can listen to the entire story here: "Olympus Scandal Could Hasten Disclosure Changes," NPR Morning Edition, 16 Nov 2011.

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