In Toshiba scandal, the 'tough as nails' target setter

Mon Aug 24, 2015 6:20pm EDT
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By Nathan Layne and Ritsuko Ando

TOKYO (Reuters) - Tom Scott, a former U.S. executive at Toshiba Corp (6502.T: Quote), remembers his former boss Atsutoshi Nishida as an aggressive leader who could motivate staff but also rattle them with tough sales targets and an occasional dressing down.   

    "He gave me goals that scared the hell out of me," Scott told Reuters after Nishida resigned as an adviser to Toshiba, along with two other former chief executives in the wake of a $1.2 billion accounting scandal.   

    "Tough as nails, maybe a little like Patton in World War 2, but an honorable guy," he said, looking back on his days working for Nishida's PC sales team in the 1990s. "He pushed us really hard, but I learned a lot from him. We all did."

    It was this leadership style that propelled the former philosophy student's rise to the top of Toshiba after an inauspicious start as a local hire in Tehran. Now his, and other executives' management style is at the center of questions over how the nuclear-to-laptops conglomerate was engulfed in Japan's worst corporate scandal since Olympus Corp in 2011.

Nishida, Toshiba's president from 2005 to 2009, was at the helm when it began a pattern of "continual inappropriate accounting treatments", an outside panel of investigators hired by Toshiba concluded in a report released last month.

The panel said Nishida, and his successors Norio Sasaki and Hisao Tanaka, pushed division heads too hard with unrealistic targets, prompting the divisions to turn to questionable accounting tactics for seven years until a whistleblower notified the securities regulator in early 2015.

All three former presidents declined to comment through a company spokeswoman.

Accounting problems were discovered in several businesses, including infrastructure projects, semiconductors and TVs. But the PC division was the most problematic, accounting for more than a third of the total inflated profits, the panel found.   Continued...

Japan's Toshiba Corp President Atsutoshi Nishida leaves after a news conference on its restructuring plans in Tokyo in this January 29, 2009 file photo. Picture taken January 29, 2009.  REUTERS/Yuriko Nakao/Files