Lessons from a £1bn fraud whistleblower

Michael Woodford wide
07 Mar 2013 13:22:38.797


A global CEO who blew the whistle on a massive corporate accounting fraud will be telling his extraordinary story at a public event at Nottingham University Business School next week.

Places are still available to hear Michael Woodford, the former CEO of one of Japan’s biggest companies, Olympus, guest speaker at the bi-annual lecture at the Business School’s International Centre for Corporate Social Responsibility (ICCSR) on Tuesday March 12 2013.

The audience will hear how Woodford, as the newly-appointed president and then CEO of the giant digital camera and medical systems company, quickly discovers that nobody is telling him the truth and he faces an accounting fraud on a massive scale, approaching $2 billion. Even the chairman and the Head of Compliance and Governance are suspected of being in on it.

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Can of worms?

Woodford was the first foreigner, or ‘gaijin’ to run Olympus after a 30 year career in the company. On October 1 2011, he was made CEO, but only two weeks later on October 14 was dismissed after querying inexplicable payments in excess of $1.5 billion and demanding the resignation of the company’s Chairman and Vice President.

In a plot worthy of a John Grisham novel, the former CEO and early pioneer of corporate social responsibility, will be describing the terrible dilemma he found himself in, which could have put his and his family’s lives at risk. Who could he trust? Certainly not his own board. What lessons can be found in his experience about information and transparency in financial flows? In a story, both hilarious and terrifying, he will lead the audience through the decision he makes which leads to the exposure of the scandal, the crash in the company’s share price, the entire board’s resignation and an urgent need for an armed guard.

A personal CSR mission

In anticipation of his visit to the University, Michael Woodford said: “It is very personal to me that the lessons from those frightening months of 2011 and 2012, are disseminated as widely as possible as I care passionately about the truth and by sharing what happened to me and my family, I hope it will make the business world a little more open and encourage individuals that if they see wrongdoing they should challenge it.”

At the event Mr Woodford will also be asking, is it so far away from what happens elsewhere? In today’s business climate, are the risks of these sorts of frauds more likely? How can regulation work when even the trusted guardians can’t be trusted? And how much of this is going on rightnow?

After his dramatic fraud exposure at Olympus, UK newspapers, The Sunday Times, The Independent and The Sun, all awarded him the 2011 ‘Business Person of the Year’; the first time three national newspapers all chose to honor the same individual. Time magazine recognized him as one of the People who mattered in 2011. Last year Michael was the winner of the ‘Association of Certified Fraud Examiners award’ “For Choosing Truth Over Self” and also received the prestigious Financial Times “Boldness in Business” Award for 2012.

The Michael Woodford event at ICCSR is open to the public and takes place at 6pm at Nottingham University Business School, South Building on the Jubilee campus off Triumph Road in Nottingham. Online registration is available here. Michael Woodford’s lecture will be followed by a drinks reception and signing of his book; Exposure: Inside the Olympus Scandal — How I Went from CEO to Whistleblower (Portfolio Penguin).


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Notes to editors: The University of Nottinghamhas 42,000 students at award-winning campuses in the United Kingdom, China and Malaysia. It was ‘one of the first to embrace a truly international approach to higher education’, according to the Sunday Times University Guide 2013. It is also one of the most popular universities among graduate employers, one of the world’s greenest universities, and winner of the Times Higher Education Award for ‘Outstanding Contribution to Sustainable Development’. It is ranked in the UK's Top 10 and the World's Top 75 universities by the Shanghai Jiao Tong and the QS World Rankings.

More than 90 per cent of research at The University of Nottingham is of international quality, according to the most recent Research Assessment Exercise. The University aims to be recognised around the world for its signature contributions, especially in global food security, energy & sustainability, and health. The University won a Queen’s Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education for its research into global food security.

Impact: The Nottingham Campaign, its biggest ever fundraising campaign, will deliver the University’s vision to change lives, tackle global issues and shape the future. More news…

Story credits

More information is available from Maggie Royston, ICCSR Business Development & Centre Manager, on +44 (0)115 846 7426, m.royston@nottingham.ac.uk

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