Olympus HQ raided, as company considers stock sale


posted Wednesday, December 21, 2011 at 6:28 PM EST

Olympus' logo. Click here to visit the Olympus Global website!Authorities today raided the Tokyo headquarters of Olympus Corp., seeking evidence in the unfolding case of a long-concealed accounting fraud, according to a report from Bloomberg.

Investigators removed a significant quantity of documents for use in their investigation, as shown in footage from public broadcaster NHK, and were also said to have searched the offices of three companies with connections to Olympus' scheme to clear its earlier losses from its books. A report from Kyodo News suggested that a further search also took place at the home of former chairman Tsuyoshi Kikukawa, who resigned from the role in late October and later stepped down from the company's board.

A statement from Olympus confirmed an investigation was underway, conducted by the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office, Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department, and the Securities and Exchange Surveillance Commission, and pledged its cooperation. The company had previously confirmed its involvement in what's known as a tobashi scheme, as described in detail in a report from an external advisory committee.

It remains to be seen what sanctions, if any, could be taken in the case. A report from the UK's Guardian newspaper suggests that in previous cases, executives have rarely received prison time for similar offences, but suggests that the possibility still remains that Olympus could find itself delisted from the Tokyo Stock Exchange, should the magnitude of its offences be deemed significant enough. Investigations are also underway in Europe and the United States.

In separate news, Bloomberg reports that Olympus may be considering a ¥100 billion (US$1.28 billion) sale of preferred stock to a list of investors rumored to include Fujifilm, Panasonic, and Sony. Officials at the latter companies declined comment, while for its part, Olympus issued a statement that neither confirmed nor denied the reports, but simply stated that it was "considering all possible options".