New Inquiry At Brand Tarnished Olympus Shares Down 50%

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Its shares are in a slump, and their brand appears tarnished after damming allegations by the Companies former CEO, now Japanese camera Company Olympus has agreed to a new inquiry into allegations over secret fees in an effort to stop the slump that has seen traders dive in and buy shares in the struggling Company.

 After bowing to pressure from shareholders Olympus directors have said that they will set up a third-party committee to investigate controversial past acquisitions that are at the centre of the intensifying scandal.

Olympus has lost half of its market value since Michael C. Woodford was fired as president on Oct. 14 after calling for a probe of $687 million in payments during a $2 billion takeover in 2008.

It’s also been revealed that a record number of shares in Olympus are being bought and sold through Japanese margin-trading accounts as investors seek to capitalise on the scandal. Investors see this as a rare opportunity to gain big profits in the short term,” said Kenichi Hirano, a general manager and strategist at Tachibana Securities Co. in Tokyo. “The volatility of Olympus is rising and the share price is likely to swing wildly in both directions.”

Also at issue is the attitude of Japanese Companies like Olympus to Company governance. The Tokyo Stock Exchange demanded on Friday that Olympus disclose more information about the deals and said it was ready to intervene again if the material did not sufficiently allay investor fears, making it difficult to trade the stock.

Nippon Life, the Japanese insurer that holds an 8.26 per cent stake, Southeastern Asset, a US fund with a 5 per cent stake, and Harris Associates, have been vocal in their demands for an explanation. Both US funds wrote to Olympus pushing for an independent inquiry.

 Michael Woodford, its sacked chief executive, believes that the deals have cost the company more than $1.3bn. Mr Woodford says he was fired because he threatened to expose these payments.

Olympus had very few details on the committee it is setting up, saying only that it would be made up of lawyers and accountants.

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