5 September 2019, a bombshell at Nissan. CEO, Hiroto Saikawa is forced to resign after admitting that he received improper remuneration totaling ¥47 million to purchase real estate (which he initially planned to have Nissan pay for, according to Mr Kelly). This was followed by the resignation (not publicly-disclosed) of Christina Murray, Vice President in charge of audit who led the probe into Mr Saikawa’s affairs.

This probe followed the revelations made in the magazine Bungei Shunju a few months previously in June 2019 by Greg Kelly – who was arrested at the same time as Carlos Ghosn and presented as “the brains of the financial arrangements that personally benefited Carlos Ghosn”.

Greg Kelly had explained at the time that, contrary to what he had claimed, Hiroto Saikawa, then CEO of Nissan, was fully aware of Carlos Ghosn’s deferred remuneration arrangements. The amount of this remuneration had not yet been decided and would only have been paid to Carlos Ghosn upon retirement.

Furthermore, Greg Kelly revealed that Mr Saikawa had actually brought forward the stock option exercise date in order to boost his own remuneration by an amount of  ¥47 million (paid to him in 2013, as reported by Les Echos).

Bloomberg expressed surprise at the favourable treatment accorded by the Japanese legal authorities to Mr Saikawa who has not been charged with any crime in his home country. The matter was deliberated by Nissan’s Board of Directors, which decided to remove Mr Saikawa from office. NB: Carlos Ghosn spent 108 days in prison in solitary confinement for non-declaration of compensation that he did not receive. A few months later, the Japanese Prime Minister stated that he would have preferred the Carlos Ghosn case to have been resolved in-house at Nissan.

Hiroto Saikawa left Nissan on 16 September 2019.

The double standards of the Japanese legal authorities highlight the different way in which the law is applied to foreigners and to Japanese citizens. Carlos Ghosn’s lawyers discussed these double standards in the following terms in the Wall Street Journal:

“While Mr. Ghosn is accused of hiding compensation that he never received and is facing a lengthy prison sentence as a result, Mr. Saikawa did receive excess pay and isn’t facing criminal charges. This is clear discrimination against foreigners.”

Junichiro Hironaka – Carlos Ghosn’s lawyer

The chaos continued unabated in Nissan. That same day, Bloomberg revealed previously undisclosed information: Hari Nada in deep trouble. Just like Mr Saikawa, Hari Nada was the beneficiary of excessive compensation. Hari Nada, Vice-President and head of the CEO’s office – and the source of the accusations against Carlos Ghosn – is protected under a plea bargain signed with Japanese prosecutors.

Finally, according to the Wall Street Journal, the Nissan Board Meeting held mainly for the purpose of removing Mr Saikawa from office, also highlighted another key matter: the full version of the final report of the Nissan investigation into the alleged improper payments to Carlos Ghosn was never submitted to the Nissan directors. Instead, they merely received a five-page summary of the report. Although this was insufficient for certain directors, apparently they did not attempt to obtain the full version of the report. 

Moreover, although it had not submitted the full report to its directors, Nissan informed the media that it estimated the financial harm caused by the Carlos Ghosn affair at €300 million. While the automaker does not provide any explanation for this amount, it considers it to be incomplete. This general attitude on the part of Nissan is dismissed by Carlos Ghosn’s lawyers as a communication ruse to mask the discomfort related to Mr Saikawa’s woes:

” Nissan’s position continues to be inconsistent, contradictory and incoherent. Mr. Ghosn will continue ‎to vigorously fight Nissan’s baseless claims and expose their orchestrated coup.”

Carlos Ghosn’s lawyers