Nissan shareholders meet to decide ousting of ex-chair Ghosn

Nissan Chief Executive Hiroto Saikawa has apologized to shareholders for the unfolding scandal at the Japanese automaker and asked to oust from the board former Chairman Carlos Ghosn

TOKYO -- Nissan's top executive apologized to shareholders Monday for the unfolding scandal at the Japanese automaker and asked them to approve ousting from its board former Chairman Carlos Ghosn, who has been arrested on financial misconduct charges.

Chief Executive Hiroto Saikawa and other Nissan Motor Co. executives bowed deeply in apology to the shareholders attending the extraordinary meeting at a Tokyo hotel.

Shareholders are also voting to approve the appointment of Renault Chairman Jean-Dominique Senard in Ghosn's place.

French alliance partner Renault SA owns 43 percent of Nissan.

Also on the ballot agenda is the removal of Greg Kelly, a board member who is charged with collaborating with Ghosn in the alleged misconduct.

Angry shareholders demanded answers on what was going on at the automaker and how wrongdoing on an allegedly massive scale had gone unchecked for years. The meeting was closed except to stockholders but livestreamed.

One shareholder said the entire management should resign immediately. Saikawa said he felt his responsibility lay in fixing the shoddy corporate governance at Nissan first, and continuing to lead its operations. Another shareholder asked if Nissan was prepared for a damage lawsuit from shareholders since the stock price had plunged.

"I deeply, deeply apologize for all the worries and troubles we have caused," Saikawa said. "This is an unprecedented and unbelievable misconduct by a top executive."

Saikawa also outlined the findings of a company internal investigation, such as a consultation fee paid to Ghosn's sister for 13 years that he said was dubious. The investigation has also found too much power had been focused in one person, he said.

Ken Miyamoto, 65, a Nissan shareholder, said he was disappointed.

"It is really such a pity as he was a brilliant manager," Miyamoto said of Ghosn before heading into the meeting. "I guess he became complacent as people kept praising him too much."

Ghosn says he is innocent of all allegations and has suggested the accusations were made by some people at Nissan hoping to remove him from power.

Ghosn has been charged with under-reporting his compensation in financial documents, and with breach of trust in having Nissan shoulder investment losses and making dubious payments to a Saudi businessman. Ghosn says the compensation was never decided or paid, no investment losses were suffered by Nissan, and the payments were for legitimate services.

His arrest last week, the fourth since November, involved fresh allegations that $5 million sent by a Nissan Motor Co. subsidiary and meant for an Oman dealership was diverted to a company effectively controlled by Ghosn. His detention on that allegation has been approved through April 14 but could be extended. The date of his trial is not set.

Yokohama-based Nissan, which makes the Leaf electric car, March subcompact and Infiniti luxury models, was on the brink of bankruptcy when Ghosn was sent in by Renault two decades ago.

Saikawa told shareholders the company will stick by the alliance, fix the governance problems and make the ouster of Ghosn "a turning point."

"We had allowed a system in which wrongdoing could be carried out without detection," he said.


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