The whistleblower in the accounting scandal engulfing Japan's Olympus Corp, ex-CEO Michael Woodford, has quit the firm's board of directors and called for an urgent shareholder meeting to sweep aside its disgraced top brass.
Woodford said on Thursday that his exit from the board, seven weeks after he raised the alarm over accounting tricks at the maker of cameras and medical equipment, would enable a clean-out of directors and pave the way for his own return to the top job.
Let me make it explicitly clear: I am not walking away from Olympus, Woodford said in a statement issued in New York, where he met Federal Bureau of Investigations officials investigating the Olympus scandal, which involved some U.S. firms.
I would like nothing more than to return to Olympus and lead it towards achieving this status (of a world-class organization), added the Briton, who was a rare foreign CEO in Japan before his sacking from the top job in mid-October.
However, in the absence of a shareholder vote enabling me to do this, I am committed to ensuring that Olympus has the best possible opportunity to succeed going forward, starting with a new and untainted board of directors, and I believe my resignation is necessary in this context.
Following my resignation, I intent to liaise with all interested stakeholders with a view to formulating a proposal for the constitution of a new board, he added.
Olympus has lost more than half its market value since firing Woodford on October 14, an event that prompted him to go public with concerns he said he had raised internally over a string of dubious acquisition payments going back five years.
The company has admitted to hiding investment losses from its investors for two decades and using some of $1.3 billion spent on questionable deals to aid in the cover-up.
The stock rose 5 percent in morning trade after Woodford's statement, though the firm still faces heavy writedowns and possible delisting from the Tokyo stock market, a humiliation that could put it under pressure to sell core assets.
Authorities in Japan, Britain and the United States are still trying to get to the bottom of the complex cover-up.
An investigative panel of experts, which was set up by Olympus after the scandal broke, is due to report its findings early this month.
(Reporting by Tim Kelly)