Olympus agrees to investor demands for independent committee


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The Independent Online

Olympus yesterday bowed to investor pressure and agreed to set up an independent committee to scrutinise a series of controversial takeover deals.

The precision equipment maker, which is best known in the UK for its cameras, has been in the spotlight since it fired its first foreign chief executive on Friday.

The board claimed Michael Woodford was removed over a culture clash, yet he countered that the board ousted him after he raised "serious governance concerns" about four of the company's acquisitions.

Shareholders Nippon Life, Southeastern Asset Management and Harris Associates went public with their concerns on Thursday and called for a review.

Olympus yesterday confirmed it had received letters from its shareholders and was "now preparing responses to the questions, and any information that should be disclosed will be promptly made public".

The company has also agreed to set up an independent committee consisting of experts, including lawyers and accountants. "Olympus Corporation intends to disclose any further information about this as soon as it is available," it said.

Josh Shores, a senior analyst and principal at Southeastern said: "This could be a positive step, especially as they have responded promptly."

However, he added: "This will only really be positive if the stakeholders can trust that the make-up of the independent committee is truly independent and objective. The independence of the third party auditor is equally important."

Southeastern has called for a report to be published by 16 November at the latest, and said that to meet the deadline, Olympus would have to set up the independent committee as early as next week.