Bowing Sumitomo boss dismisses all criticism

PETER RODGERS

Financial Editor

Tomiichi Akiyama, chairman of Sumitomo Corporation, and his 43 directors bowed low to shareholders at yesterday's annual meeting in Osaka, in an apology for the company's losses of pounds 1.2bn in the copper market. "We have caused a lot of trouble to our shareholders and we deeply regret this," Mr Akiyama said.

But that was as far as he was prepared to go. During a tightly controlled 40-minute long meeting, Mr Akiyama offered not a word of explanation of the predicament in which Sumitomo has found itself as a result of the activities of its rogue trader, Yasuo Yamanaka.

The meeting was held on the same day as 2,200 other Japanese company AGMs, part of a strategy devised years ago to defeat gangs of extortionists who were deliberately disrupting meetings until they were paid off.

The Sumitomo meeting was held with high security, open only to shareholders with special invitations, with the press two floors away watching on closed circuit television. Japanese journalists said it was the first time a Sumitomo annual meeting had been open to the press, even electronically.

One lone questioner in a side room - where the individual shareholders were sent - dared to tackle the chairman.

Kazuyoshi Yuoka, owner of a fabric shop, asked how Mr Akiyama could not have known about a trader who lost so much over such a long period, and whether he would take responsibility for the losses.

Mr Akiyama refused to comment and brushed him aside. When Mr Yuoka persisted, other shareholders shouted him down. "The directors are avoiding their responsibility. They are treating shareholders with contempt, " Mr Yuoka told reporters afterwards.

Far from resigning, as the chairman of Barings did last year, Mr Akiyama was elevated from president to chairman by a shareholder vote during the meeting, which also unanimously approved all the other proposed changes in personnel, including the reappointment of several executives in the copper trading division.

Speaking on the day investigators from the Serious Fraud Office and the US Commodity Futures Trading Commission arrived in Tokyo for talks with their Japanese counterparts, Mr Akiyama insisted that company officials did not know about the losses until Mr Hamanaka told them, and that he was a lone trader who had no inside help. He also refused to give any information about the copper stocks still held by Sumitomo.

Wildly varying guesses about how much copper Sumitomo has to sell have led to big fluctuations in the copper market, with some traders claiming the company faces losses of pounds 2.6bn rather than the pounds 1.2bn to which it has admitted.

In London, copper prices shot up after a bad week.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45,000: SThree: SThree Group have been well e...

Ashdown Group: IT Manager / Development Manager - NW London - £58k + 15% bonus

£50000 - £667000 per annum + excellent benefits : Ashdown Group: IT Manager / ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultant / Telemarketer - OTE £20,000

£13000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Scotland's leading life insuran...

Ashdown Group: Training Programme Manager - City, London

£40000 - £45000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Training Programme Manag...

Day In a Page

Where the spooks get their coffee fix: The busiest Starbucks in the US is also the most secretive

The secret CIA Starbucks

The coffee shop is deep inside the agency's forested Virginia compound
Revealed: How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Loch Ness Monster 'sighting'

How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Nessie 'sighting'

The Natural History Museum's chief scientist was dismissed for declaring he had found the monster
One million Britons using food banks, according to Trussell Trust

One million Britons using food banks

Huge surge in number of families dependent on emergency food aid
Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths 2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths trove
The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey, 25 years on

The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey 25 years on

The space telescope was seen as a costly flop on its first release
Did Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

Did Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

A document seen by The Independent shows that a week after he resigned from the Lords he sold 350,000 shares in an American company - netting him $11.2m
Apple's ethnic emojis are being used to make racist comments on social media

Ethnic emojis used in racist comments

They were intended to promote harmony, but have achieved the opposite
Sir Kenneth Branagh interview: 'My bones are in the theatre'

Sir Kenneth Branagh: 'My bones are in the theatre'

The actor-turned-director’s new company will stage five plays from October – including works by Shakespeare and John Osborne
The sloth is now the face (and furry body) of three big advertising campaigns

The sloth is the face of three ad campaigns

Priya Elan discovers why slow and sleepy wins the race for brands in need of a new image
How to run a restaurant: As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food

How to run a restaurant

As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food
Record Store Day: Remembering an era when buying and selling discs were labours of love

Record Store Day: The vinyl countdown

For Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Usher, Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert as part of the Global Poverty Project

Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert

The concert in Washington is part of the Global Citizen project, which aims to encourage young people to donate to charity
10 best tote bags

Accessorise with a stylish shopper this spring: 10 best tote bags

We find carriers with room for all your essentials (and a bit more)
Paul Scholes column: I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England

Paul Scholes column

I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England
Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

The heptathlete has gone from the toast of the nation to being a sleep-deprived mum - but she’s ready to compete again. She just doesn't know how well she'll do...