Japan's markets watchdog recommends $22 million fine for Nissan over Ghosn pay

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TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan's markets watchdog said on Tuesday it has recommended that Nissan Motor Co Ltd 7201.T be fined about 2.4 billion yen ($22 million) over the underreporting of former chairman Carlos Ghosn's compensation.

The fine would cover the four financial years from April 2014 to March 2018, markets watchdog the Securities and Exchange Surveillance Commission (SESC) said in a statement.

Ghosn was arrested in Tokyo in November last year over allegations of financial misconduct, including understating his salary by around 9.1 billion yen over a period of nearly a decade and temporarily transferring personal financial losses to the books of Nissan. He has denied wrongdoing.

Due to the statute of limitations, Nissan is not liable for underreporting before the financial year starting April 2014, an SESC official told a press briefing. Japan’s financial regulator the Financial Services Agency will make a final decision on the fine.

A 2.4 billion yen fine would be the second largest ever imposed in Japan for false reporting in a corporate financial statement, behind a 7.3 billion yen fine imposed on Toshiba Corp 6502.T in 2015, according to the SESC.

Nissan said in a statement that it was taking the SESC’s recommendations seriously. “We express deepest regret to stakeholders for any trouble caused. We will continue efforts to strengthen governance and compliance including ensuring accuracy of corporate information disclosure,” it said.

The SESC acknowledged false reporting by Nissan based on its investigation, the official told reporters.

Nissan’s new chief executive, Makoto Uchida, pledged on his first day in the role on Dec. 2 to repair profitability and said setting realistic targets would be key to that goal, as Nissan tries to make a clean break from Ghosn’s leadership.

Reuters in June cited a source saying Nissan would be fined up to 4 billion yen and that it may receive a reduced fine of around 2.4 billion yen if the automaker filed documentation to the SESC before a formal investigation begins.

Reporting by Takashi Umekawa; Editing by Kim Coghill/ Christopher Cushing/Susan Fenton