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Nomura chief steps down over insider trading scandal

July 26, 2012

TOKYO: The head of Japan’s biggest securities firm resigned today in the wake of an embarrassing insider trading scandal, part of a widening national probe into the widespread practice.

Nomura Holdings’ chief executive Kenichi Watanabe (photo) will step down as of July 31, while Takumi Shibata, Nomura’s chief operating officer, will also leave his post, the company said in a statement.

Watanabe vowed last month he would not resign after Nomura released the findings of a damning report that revealed some employees had leaked material information to clients, while it warned that Nomura had “systemic defects”.

But today, he stepped aside to be replaced by Koji Nagai, president of Nomura Securities.

“I wanted to see that measures for improvement to address the matters pointed out [by authorities] and other additional measures are put in place,” Watanabe told a press briefing in Tokyo.

The firm’s new chief, however, acknowledged that a management shuffle would not immediately fix Nomura’s tarnished reputation.
“[The scandal] has caused very big damage,” he told reporters.

“We are aware of how important it is to regain public trust. And we must realise that we need to rebuild the company from the bottom, not just by making management changes.”

The news comes as Japanese authorities are carrying out a wide-ranging probe into insider trading which, although illegal in Japan, is widespread and carries only token fines.

The resignations also come several weeks after the former chief of Barclays Bank, Bob Diamond, and its chairman stepped down in the wake of a scandal over the manipulation of key inter-bank lending rates that has rocked the City of London, one of the world’s top financial hubs.

Separately today, Nomura said net profit in its fiscal first quarter to June shrank 89.4% to 1.89 billion yen (US$24.19 million) owing to lower retail and wholesale trading business.

Revenue was 12% higher year-on-year at 369.3 billion yen, it said.

Serious systemic defects

Like many investment banks, Nomura has struggled with yo-yoing stock and bond prices, poor merger prospects and tightening regulation in the wake of the global financial crisis.

The company began an aggressive expansion drive when it bought some of Lehman Brothers’ businesses in 2008.

Since the scandal, Nomura has reportedly been dumped from several bond and share sales including the government’s sale of its stake in Japan Tobacco and once-bankrupt Japan Airlines’ expected share offering later this year.

The company report said Nomura was overrun with “serious systemic defects that would erode confidence in (Nomura) as a securities company”.

The report said the firm’s sales staff tipped off clients about share sales and information often flowed freely between sales and Nomura’s investment banking and research side, which is usually barred.

There was little or no training for younger employees about their ethical responsibilities and “some instances of excessive entertainment of particular clients were found to be contrary to business ethics”, it added.

Nomura said today a continuing internal probe may have found more cases of material information being passed to clients by Nomura employees.

Although it usually draws huge fines and jail time in the West, insider trading is largely tolerated in Japan with recent fines coming in at around just US$1,500, while criminal convictions are few and far between.

But there has been renewed pressure to crack down on lax regulations and legal loopholes, which have dented Japan’s corporate governance image.

Nomura shares rose 5.71% to 259 yen in Tokyo with its financial results released after markets closed.
- AFP


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