Michael Woodford's story is extraordinary. The newly-appointed President and then CEO of Olympus, the iconic global manufacturer of camera and medical equipment, wakes up to find nobody is telling him the truth, facing accounting fraud on a massive scale, approaching $2 billion.
Even the chairman and the Head of Compliance and Governance are suspected of being involved. Michael faces a terrible dilemma that could put his and his family's lives at risk.
Who can he trust? Certainly not his own board.
What lessons can be learnt from his experiences about transparency in financial flows?
Listen to Michael's candid and insightful story — both hilarious and terrifying — as the decision he makes leads to the exposure of the scandal, a crash in share price, the entire board's resignation and Michael having to travel with armed police.
This gripping story is currently being made into a major Hollywood movie, but how removed is it from what happens elsewhere? In today's business climate, are fraudulent risks of this nature more likely? How can regulation and compliance work when even the trusted guardians can't be trusted? How much of this is going on right now? What would you do in Michael Woodford's position?
The first Western salaried employee to rise through the ranks to the top of a Japanese corporate giant, Michael headed a company with 40,000 employees and a net annual income of billions of dollars. However, in October 2011, just seven months after being appointed President, Michael Woodford became one of the corporate world's highest-ranking whistle-blowers and the central figure in exposing the Olympus scandal, which became known as the Enron of Japan.
After writing a series of letters to question his board colleagues on inexplicable payments amounting to almost $1.7 billion, on October 14th 2011, he was unceremoniously dismissed. An hour later, fearful for his life, he met in a Tokyo park with Jonathan Sobles, the Financial Times correspondent for Japan - when he landed in London the following morning, it was the front page lead, and was quickly picked up by media across the globe.
The story Michael told Jonathan involved corporate boardroom battles, fraud on a monumental scale, approaching $2 billion paid to unknown parties in the Cayman Islands, and the suggested involvement of the Yakuza (mafia), which led to the involvement of regulatory and law enforcement agencies around the world.
After his bravery at Olympus, in the UK, The Sunday Times, The Independent and The Sun, all awarded him the 2011 'Business Person of the Year' and in March 2012, he received the prestigious FT/ArcelorMittal 'Boldness in Business' 'Person of The Year '. This was first time in history that four national newspapers all chose to honour the same individual.
Michael Woodford has chronicled his extraordinary story in his bestselling, real life thriller 'Exposure: Inside the Olympus Scandal: How I Went from CEO to Whistleblower', published by Penguin.