Focusing on the truth, lessons from Olympus

Anton Colella
By Anton Colella, ICAS CEO

10 March 2015

ANTON'S ACCOUNT: The compelling story of Michael Woodford MBE and Olympus contains valuable insights for us all.

Even people in the most senior roles can find that simply doing the right thing calls on all their reserves of courage and personal strength. Such was the case for Michael Woodford MBE, former president of Olympus, the Japanese multinational camera and optical instruments group.

Michael blew the whistle on a 1.7bn dollar fraud at Olympus and was dismissed from his position after he confronted senior executives about the scandal.

However, Michael did not go quietly into the night and his response was to confront and expose fraudulent activity and the fraudsters. All this was in the face of bitter acrimony from former associates, some of whom he had known for 30 years.

Michael, who has previously shared his experiences and lessons learned from that time in his life with ICAS members, was kind enough to get in touch recently to let us know that the scandal has now been made the subject of a powerful documentary, 1.7 Billion Dollar Fraud: Full Exposure, which is being screened across the globe.

This is a compelling film and I would urge everyone to watch it.  As Michael has said, it is a valuable case study for anyone interested in governance, ethics and how not to manage a corporate crisis. One cannot underestimate the personal toll this scandal exacted on Michael, nor the shock and trauma he suffered in the face of a belligerent board, hell-bent on covering up decades of illegal activity.

The film contains valuable lessons and insights for all CAs.

It demonstrates that even people at the top of an organisation can find themselves in a "whistleblower" role, and shines a harsh light on the dangers of "group think" and a dysfunctional and unquestioning business culture.

While the setting for scandal was Japan, it is worth stating that this problem exists elsewhere. We have seen painful examples of this in the UK, where businesses and public bodies have accepted as normal, behaviours and actions that the wider community would find unacceptable.

However, what emerges from this account of dark dealings and malfeasance is the story of one man, with a deep sense of responsibility, who took a principled and ethical stand, and was wholly vindicated.

Please take time out to watch this film.


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