Olympus exec clawbacks set example for U.S.

January 10, 2012|Jay Hancock

This is what you call fulfilling fidicuiary duty to shareholders. Last fall Olympus CEO Michael Woodford exposed a huge accounting scandal at the company, so it fired him. Today Reuters reports that the company "is suing its president and 18 other executives, past and present, for up to $47 million in compensation, as it struggles to recover from one of the nation's worst accounting scandals."

Why not? These are the guys who presided over the fraud and presumably benefited from it. In the United States these kinds of "clawbacks" rarely happen, despite changes in the law that allow them. But by suing its own execs and directors, Olympus the company is doing what's best for its shareholders. In the United States all too often corporate priorities are what's best for the board and the executives.

One interesting aspect of the Olympus suits is that they're being initiated while the people being sued are still nominally in charge. Unclear who's calling the shots. Maybe they all have really good directors and officers liability coverage and know that it's the insurance company that will get gored, not them.  

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