Thank you Michael Woodford, for a short time CEO of Olympus before he was sacked, not for screwing an employee, not for raiding the company pension scheme, not for losing a ton of shareholder’s money, not for being discovered with his hands in the till but for DOING THE RIGHT THING, not the easy thing.
When he was made CEO of Olympus he discovered a gigantic pile of financial turds in the bottom drawer of a desk in the no doubt very elegant executive boardroom. He started to ask questions. Uncomfortable questions that called into question the honesty and probity of the board of a Japanese icon. He was sacked for being a, ‘high-handed’ manager. Things got pretty bad and he sought police protection.
Now it turns out that Olympus had been involved in the creation of one gigantic tobashi scheme. (See the basic deal in this FT article but bottom line, looks like it is a pretty straightforward case of fraud for whatever reason).
He could have gone quietly. He could probably have organised to leave with a very nice pay off for keeping the hell quiet. He chose the road less traveled too often in business. He investigated and looked for answers and when he didn’t get answers he blew the whistle.
Unbelievably, Shuichi Takayama, the Olympus President, while calling some of the extraordinary shenanigans, ‘highly inappropriate’, said this week that Michael Woodford was unsuited to run the company and wrong to make the company’s problems public.
Michael Woodford, thank you for making people believe that ethics, honesty and doing the right thing still play a major part in the way that some people go about their lives at the top in business.