Nissan Motor Co is considering claiming damages against ousted boss Carlos Ghosn over alleged financial misconduct, the automaker's chief executive told shareholders on Monday, adding the scandal would not be fixed overnight. Hiroto Saikawa made the comments at an extraordinary shareholders' meeting in Tokyo, where Ghosn was expected to be voted out as a director.
Ghosn, who famously rescued Nissan from the brink of bankruptcy two decades ago and forged a partnership with France's Renault that has become one of the world's biggest carmaking alliances, was arrested again by Tokyo prosecutors last week on suspicion he tried to enrich himself to the tune of $5 million at the company's expense. Ghosn has said he is innocent of all the charges against him, and that he is the victim of a boardroom coup. His lawyers have said his latest arrest was an attempt to muzzle him. The executive was due to speak at a news conference on April 11. Instead, a video statement from him will be shown on Tuesday, the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan said.
Facing shareholders for the first time since the scandal erupted in November, current CEO Saikawa said Nissan would discuss the possibility of claiming damages against Ghosn. He also said that stabilising the company would take time. "This is not an issue we can fix overnight. We need to fulfil the task (of improving governance) and prepare the company for our next steps, and then pass the leadership baton," Saikawa told shareholders. "At that point I would like to consult with you about my next move." Saikawa started the meeting by apologising for the inconvenience the scandal had caused, which was followed by a deep bow by him and a panel of Nissan executives and directors.
Outside the Tokyo hotel where the meeting was being held, some shareholders expressed concern that the automaker's management had been in the dark for years regarding activity by Ghosn now regarded at Nissan as potentially questionable. "The situation seems to go deeper than it looks... It seems like this situation started long, long ago," said Roberto Montoya, a 68-year-old retiree who holds shares in the company. "I'm very suspicious of the situation, and most people are. That's why there are so many people here today... We want to know the real story."
(With inputs from agencies.)