Head of Taiwan's Tatung guilty of breach of trustTAIPEI — The head of Taiwan's top home appliance maker, Tatung Company, was handed a four-and-a-half-year prison term after he ordered the firm to finance a company he had invested in, a court said on Saturday.
Tatung chairman Lin Wei-shan was handed the prison sentence late Friday at a court in New Taipei City, close to the capital, after being convicted of breach of trust. He has not yet been jailed as he plans to appeal the ruling.
The 65-year-old had instructed a Tatung subsidiary to finance a computer firm he personally invested in, which caused Tatung a loss of at least Tw$1.7 billion ($56 million), according to the court.
"Lin abused his powers as the chairman and his actions... seriously damaged the interests of Tatung shareholders and investors," the Banciao district court said in a statement.
Lin was quoted by the state central news agency as saying that he will appeal the ruling to clear his name.
Established in 1918, Taiwan-listed Tatung, which makes goods such as flat-panel TVs, fridges and fans, is one of the island's best-known brands and runs manufacturing plants in China, Southeast Asia, Europe and North America.
It also has investment interests in green energy, real estate and education.
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Japan whistleblower wins in Supreme Court in nation first as judge dismisses Olympus appeal
Despite being a good salesman with experience in the United States, Masaharu Hamada, 51, was demoted at Olympus Corp., forced to take rudimentary tests and ignored by colleagues, in what he alleged was reprisal for raising the issue of supplier complaints.
“We need a society where honest hard-working people don’t lose out,” Hamada told The Associated Press. “This is about justice and human rights.”
Hamada’s story highlights how workers labeled as misbehaving are punished in Japan, where major companies like Olympus offer lifetime employment, although they more freely fire contract and part-time workers.
That means employees like Hamada become targets of cruel harassment designed to silence them or make them quit. Hamada was nearly driven to breakdown during his five-year battle.
Japan is behind some Western nations in protecting whistleblowers. A law to protect them was enacted only in 2006, and critics say it is inadequate because it does not penalize companies that punish whistleblowers. To pursue legal action, whistleblowers can’t quit as the law only applies to employees.
Only a handful of whistleblower has come forward in Japan in the past few decades. When they do, they are treated as outcasts, sometimes being told to sit in closet-sized offices or to mow the lawn. Sometimes even their children become victims of discrimination. So abhorred is the employee who dares to question the company.
Hamada sued Olympus in 2008, saying he was punished for relaying a supplier’s complaint that its best employees were being lured away by Olympus. Olympus said he was merely transferred, not demoted.
His case is considered a whistleblowing case in Japan because he went first to his bosses and then to the company compliance unit, trying to raise questions about the professional behavior of colleagues for the public good, and, as the Supreme Court found, was punished unfairly in retribution.
Last year, the Tokyo High Court reversed an earlier district court decision and ordered Olympus to pay Hamada 2.2 million yen ($28,000) in damages for the transfer. Olympus had appealed.
Olympus was not immediately available for comment Saturday. In the past, it has called the court rulings favoring Hamada “regrettable.”
Olympus has been targeted recently by another high-profile whistleblower, Briton Michael Woodford, the former chief executive.
Woodford was fired in October after he blew the whistle on dubious accounting at Olympus. The company later acknowledged it hid 117.7 billion yen ($1.5 billion) in investment losses dating back to the 1990s. Three former Olympus executives, including the ex-chairman, were arrested earlier this year on suspicion of orchestrating the accounting cover-up.
Woodford has become a hero in Japan. Three weeks ago, Woodford won a 10 million pound (1.2 billion yen, $15.4 million) settlement from Olympus in a British court. He had sued alleging unlawful dismissal and discrimination as he was not given the same treatment as a Japanese employee.
How Hamada will be treated at Olympus on Monday remains unclear.
He plans to show up at work at 8:45 a.m. as usual, wearing his company color, blue, as he is confident he is an upstanding “Olympus-man.”
Hamada said he would like to be transferred to the corporate compliance division, given the serious problems that have surfaced with Woodford’s case and the knowledge he has gained about proper management through his court battle.
“I would like to work for the true revival of Olympus, where dedicated employees can work and feel joy, in a nurturing environment, and be proud,” said Hamada.