Olympus Shares Plunge, UK Serious Fraud Squad Called In To Investigate Company

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Japanese digital camera Company Olympus saw their shares plunge 24% on Monday after falling $37% on Friday, $5.5 Billion wiped off the value of the Company after their CEO was sacked for probing questionable fees paid to several Companies following an aquisition three years ago.

Japanese digital camera Company Olympus saw their shares plunge 24% on Monday after falling $37% on Friday, $5.5 Billion wiped off the value of the Company after their CEO was sacked for probing questionable fees paid to several Companies following an aquisition three years ago.

Michael Woodford a UK national told The Wall Street Journal over the weekend that shortly before he was fired, he had urged the Japanese company’s chairman to resign over “serious governance concerns.”

According to Woodford who was only in the job for six months,  Olympus spent more than $912m between 2006 and 2008 to build controlling stakes in a trio of small, little-known companies.

He told the Financial Times in London the companies had little real value and that their ultimate owners were never identified by Olympus during the transactions.

His assertions are central to an apparent dispute between Mr Woodford and other members of Olympus’ board. Mr Woodford says he was dismissed for calling into question some $1.3bn of payments to advisers and investment funds in a string of acquisitions carried out under his predecessor, Tsuyoshi Kikukawa.

Olympus sharesclosed down 24% on Monday in Tokyo. Combined with a sharp drop on Friday, of 37% has seen $5.5 billion wiped off the value of the Company that is currently in a head on battle with Nikon and Panasonic in the mirrorless digital camera market.

Olympus Executive Vice President Hisashi Mori said the company’s payment to financial advisers in a 2008 purchase was less than half the $687 million cited in an auditors’ report commissioned by Mr. Woodford, according to two analysts who were on the call. The 45-minute session was closed to the news media.

The amount of fees cited by Mr. Woodford for the deal would have amounted to 36% of the $1.92 billion price for buying U.K. medical-equipment supplier Gyrus Group Ltd. Olympus didn’t disclose the exact amount of fees paid and company executives declined to comment on the call.

Mr. Woodford on Monday said he referred the deal to the U.K. Serious Fraud Office. The SFO declined to comment. Olympus couldn’t be reached.

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