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.
Michael Woodford's experiences provide a unique and very real insight to the world of corporate governance, which brings into sharp focus the reputational risks individuals and corporations face when governance controls fail so spectacularly.
Companies and financial institutions around the world are fascinated to hear from the first ever President and CEO of a large publicly listed company, who was forced to become a Whistleblower on his own company - the story contains gripping drama, raw emotion and human interest.
I've had the honour of hosting six Nobel Prize winners, three US presidents, two heads of state and an archbishop as well as many leading commentators from the fields of economics, finance, politics and civic society and Michael Woodford stands out as one of the most captivating and interesting speakers myself and Pi members have been lucky enough to hear from in Pi's history.
Your willingness to share the personal and professional details of your whistleblowing experience with Olympus truly captivated and empowered our audience. According to our attendee survey, you were the highest rated keynote speaker at this year's Conference, and one of the highest rated speakers we have had in the last 10 years. Your humble confidence and professional candor are two traits that set you apart both as a keynote speaker and accomplished executive.
As a speaker, Michael Woodford puts these experiences across vividly, giving a real sense of the emotional rollercoaster on which he found himself. I would recommend him to anyone who is interesting in hearing a gripping story that offers important real-world lessons.
Michael Woodford literally kept the delegates on the edge of their seats as he regaled us with his thrilling adventure through the maze of Japanese business manners, etiquette and customs as he uncovered one of the biggest financial scandals in history. The room was buzzing throughout and he left us all wanting more, evidenced by delegates clambering to ask questions and to engage with Michael after.
The subject is one that is of immense importance, profound significance and tremendous relevance not just to the Japanese corporate sector but to corporate governance around the world. The delivery kept the audience enraptured for more than an hour - it was entertaining, informative and insightful. It is a talk that anyone who was fortunate enough to be there will remember for a long time.
Michael Woodford is a master storyteller, who tells a compelling story masterfully. Our speakers typically spend around 20 minutes giving a presentation, then another 20 minutes of Question and Answer, but Michael respectfully requested 90 minutes to properly develop his story, plus answer all questions. Attendees were riveted in their seats until he answered the last question.
Michael Woodford delivered a captivating address to the RSA. His Olympus experience reveals him as a leader of remarkable courage and integrity, and it was a privilege to hear his account at firsthand. Michael is a master storyteller with an enthralling tale to tell, and he held the audience in the palm of his hand throughout his address. There were audible sighs of disappointment when our time was up! It was a uniquely memorable event with a truly inspiring individual.
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