Ousted Woodford launches Olympus lawsuit

Thu Mar 1, 2012 1:52pm EST
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By Kirstin Ridley

LONDON (Reuters) - Michael Woodford, the ousted Olympus chief executive who blew the whistle on one of Japan's most high-profile frauds, vowed he would hold his former employer to account as he kicked off his legal battle for wrongful dismissal in London on Thursday.

"I found wrongdoing, I raised that wrongdoing and for doing that I was dismissed ... in a way in which I'll never forget," he told a small throng of reporters gathered outside an employment tribunal building in east London.

"(I was) thrown out of my apartment and told to get the bus to the airport. We now know why ... I'm looking today to hold Olympus to account."

A 30-year Olympus (7733.T: Quote) veteran, Woodford was fired after questioning around $1.7 billion of dubious deals that top executives later admitted were fraudulent. To date, seven people have been arrested in Japan, including former chairman Tsuyoshi Kikukawa and former vice-president Hisashi Mori.

Thursday's proceedings were closed to reporters, but a five-day hearing is scheduled to begin on May 28 which will be open to the media and the public -- unless Woodford and the Japanese endoscope and camera maker reach a settlement first.

Woodford, the former president of Olympus, was appointed a rare British chief executive of a Japanese company last October after confronting Kikukawa and Mori over a series of odd-looking acquisitions and fees.

But after he persisted in asking questions about the deals, and called for the resignation of Kikukawa and Mori, he was unanimously fired by the board two weeks later at a board meeting during which, he says, he was not allowed to speak.

Olympus President Shuichi Takayama has said the company dismissed Woodford because of a clash of management styles and his "unilateral decision-making and bypassing of consultation."   Continued...

Former Olympus CEO Michael Woodford speaks during a news conference at the Japan National Press Club in Tokyo January 6, 2012.  REUTERS/Issei Kato