Tokyo brokerages release list of clients who got payments Leading companies among 228 named

July 30, 1991|By John E. Woodruff | John E. Woodruff,Tokyo Bureau of The Sun

TOKYO -- Heads of global blue- chip companies dove for cover yesterday, insisting they knew nothing about tens of millions of dollars in payments, after their companies' names appeared on lists of who got what in Tokyo's $1 billion-plus securities scandal.

As financial analysts had predicted for more than a month, the lists read like bluebooks of corporate Japan, containing such household names as Hitachi and Matsushita in electronics, Toyota and Nissan in automobiles, Marubeni and C. Itoh in trading and Mitsubishi and Nippon Oil in petroleum.

They and more than 200 other institutions and individuals were listed as recipients of the nearly $1 billion Nomura Securities, the world's biggest brokerage house, and others in Japan's "Big Four" securities firms paid back to "compensate" selected clients for losses in the 1990 crash.

The disclosures left many central questions unanswered, including:

* Who got the additional $250 million in paybacks made by six second-tier securities firms?

* --How did the brokers generate $1 billion for the paybacks, and what mechanisms did they use to transfer it?

* Did any politicians benefit?

* Did paybacks continue after March 1990, the end of the fiscal year for which disclosures have thus far been made?

Kaname Seki, managing director of the Japan Securities Dealers Association, acknowledged for the first time that Nomura Securities and the other three in Tokyo's Big Four "broke the most important rule of the business" -- the principle that the investor must shoulder the risk.

Mr. Seki made public yesterday afternoon a list of 228 recipients provided by the Big Four.

The disclosure made millions of Japanese home television screens briefly resemble a stock exchange ticker, with long moving lists of company names followed by numbers. But the figures were far bigger than the price of a share of stock.

Many analysts have charged that the Big Four's guarantees against losses -- and in some cases apparently guarantees of profits -- distorted the market by encouraging a handful of huge investors to speculate in ways they would not normally consider.

"In the end, it's a form of manipulation, and it goes a long way to explain how the Big Four could levitate the TSE [Tokyo Stock Exchange] for so many years, forcing prices into multiples of earnings no other big market ever sees," a foreign brokerage official here said yesterday.

He asked not to be identified, on the grounds that his business relies on a license from the Ministry of Finance, which is under heavy criticism for failing to curb the paybacks.

The huge openings for manipulation were further amplified by the fact that most of the payments involved "eigyo tokkin" -- accounts in which the investor deposits huge sums and lets the brokers buy and sell without waiting for orders from the client, who gets only periodic activity reports.

Those accounts are believed to have been a source of the Big Four's vaunted ability to rush in and reverse things late in the afternoon whenever stock prices fell substantially during the "bubble market" of the 1980s.

After looking the other way for decades, the government is drafting legislation to outlaw those accounts, and the Ministry of Finance is drafting a plan to overhaul its widely ridiculed oversight of the stockbrokerage business.

The JSDA's publication of the lists gave a moment of relief to the government of Prime Minister Toshiki Kaifu, which has been searching for ways to look like it's taking the scandal in hand without letting out any information that damages Mr. Kaifu's governing Liberal Democratic Party.

Finance Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto, who has taken the brunt of the pressure and has repeatedly been called on by opposition politicians to resign, rushed back from vacation in the mountain resort of Karuizawa yesterday morning after a newspaper created a sensation and threw the government into crisis by publishing a partial list.

With the JSDA list published, Mr. Hashimoto returned to his vacation.

The Tokyo Stock Exchange's key Nikkei 225 index surged this morning, rising 399.80 points, or 1.70 percent, in the morning session. The index was up about 360 points in early afternoon trading.

A trader said disclosure of the recipients "eliminated one of the negative factors in the market."

The exchange has taken a beating in recent weeks. Trading has been slow; a puny 180 million shares changed hands yesterday, compared with a billion on peak days during the late 1980s. And even after this morning's gain, the Nikkei index was more than 2,100 points below the levels it reached in its post-Persian Gulf war rally.

Several individuals on the JSDA's list of favored clients were identified only by their initials, and the paper that provided the first list said that several little-known companies on it might prove to be covers for politicians or their fund-raising organizations.

"We are taken aback," Matsushita Electric Industrial Co.'s president, Akio Tanii, said to Japanese reporters after the initial list showed Matsushita as the recipient of about $30 million.

"I don't know any details," Tsutomu Kanai, president of Hitachi Ltd., told Japanese reporters after his firm and subsidiaries were listed as recipients of more than $22 million.

The stockbrokers' association hastily called a press conference and published its list hours after Nihon Keizai Shimbun (Japan Economic Journal), the country's most influential business daily, published a partial list of 187 names.

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