March 13, 2013, by Maggie
Our evening with Michael Woodford and Nuncy
This story really was extraordinary. Over 180 staff, students and business people listened intently to Michael as he recounted how, as newly appointed president of Olympus, he discovered and began to unpick an accounting fraud approaching $2 billion.
Storytelling is clearly one of Michael’s talents, and the detailed tale and colourful descriptions and anecdotes provided the audience with a vivid image of Japan, the people and the culture; and of Olympus, the business that he worked for for 30 years and presided over for just six months. Wound around this landscape were the details of his discovery and exposure of the scandal that led to his dismissal as the board closed ranks behind the chairman, excluding the gaijin (foreigner). A last, but ultimately unsuccessful attempt was made by the Olympus board to cover up the affair which appeared to be linked to organised crime.
We closed with an image of the high flying chief executive fleeing to safety on the last economy class seat left on the plane, the seat next to the toilet.
Following the lecture Michael answered a wide range of questions from the audience revealing that he is unlikely to return to corporate life and was dedicating much of his time to telling his story, providing business advice and, his primary passions, campaigning for human rights and road safety.
There were many things to take away from the lecture, and I hope colleagues and students will also share their reflections over the coming days – but for me the story revealed much about the life of a executive, the importance of personal integrity, trust and relationships in business; and when you no longer know who to trust, what a lonely place it must be at the top.
You can read more in Exposure – Inside the Olympus Scandal: How I went from CEO to Whistleblower, by Michael Woodford (Portfolio Penguin)
By Maggie Royston
Business Development & Centre Manager
International Centre for Corporate Social Responsibility