Nissan investigates Ghosn’s links with key car dealers

Nissan investigates Ghosn’s links with key car dealers

Carlos Ghosn’s arrest is triggering a reckoning at the Japanese carmaker he once saved from near bankruptcy, with Nissan reviewing its global operations and relationships with key dealers as part of an expanding investigation into the car titan’s alleged misdeeds.

Hundreds of people — including regional and legal compliance teams as well as outside law firms — are participating in the probe into business practices under Mr Ghosn, according to sources.

Hiroto Saikawa
Hiroto Saikawa

The scandal encompassing Mr Ghosn, the carmaker, and its alliance with France’s Renault and Mitsubishi Motors, is now in its third month. He denies wrongdoing.

Chief executive Hiroto Saikawa, 65, is trying to move beyond the era of Mr Ghosn and rebuild Nissan as a company that doesn’t rely on the relationships and practices spawned during the former CEO’s two-decade reign.

He wants to convince investors he’s addressing corporate-governance shortcomings exposed by the scandal — in which Nissan itself also has been indicted by prosecutors — and he also wants to reassure employees that Nissan’s place in the world’s largest auto partnership remains unshaken.

“The company’s internal investigation has already uncovered substantial and convincing evidence of misconduct, resulting in a unanimous board vote to dismiss Ghosn as representative director,” Nicholas Maxfield, a spokesman for Nissan, said.

“While the investigation is ongoing, and its scope continues to broaden, we cannot share details regarding its areas of focus or recent findings,” he said.

Mr Ghosn, 64, was indicted for allegedly understating his income at Nissan by tens of millions of dollars and for allegedly transferring personal trading losses to the carmaker.

Nissan, Japan’s second-largest automaker by vehicle sales, also claims he misused company funds and awarded contracts on questionable merits.

He has been in prison in Tokyo since his arrest in November, with his trial still months away.

Courts rejected several of his bail applications, including one in which he offered to wear an electronic tracker.

Shares of Nissan have fallen about 10% in Tokyo trading since his arrest.

Separately, Renault is negotiating with Mr Ghosn over the terms of his departure as its chairman and CEO, and he is ready to resign under the right conditions, a source said.

The French company’s board will meet later today and is expected to appoint Michelin chief Jean-Dominique Senard as chairman and to make interim chief executive Thierry Bollore’s role permanent.

Mr Ghosn’s ties with business partners have emerged as a focus in Nissan’s internal investigation.

- Bloomberg

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