LONDON May 28 Michael Woodford, the ousted
chief executive of Olympus, will try to persuade a
London judge his embattled former employer fired him because he
blew the cover off one of Japan's most high-profile corporate
The five-day hearing, which starts on Monday, will throw the
spotlight back onto a $1.7 billion accounting scandal that has
cost the camera-to-endoscope maker its board and reputation.
Woodford, chief executive for just two weeks before he was
sacked, was expected to sue for up to 10 years' lost salary in a
multi-million pound claim that could mark a record payout.
By bringing a claim on the grounds of whistleblowing and
discrimination in the employment tribunal in east London,
Woodford's damages are unlimited, depending on whether he is
likely ever to regain a career at global CEO level again.
Olympus has surprised some legal experts by failing to date
to reach a settlement with Woodford, who has already published a
book about his experiences in Japanese and plans another in
English around October.
"This case is a graphic illustration of how an employee can
bring an uncapped claim against his employer from day one and
without any qualifying service condition," said Anthony Fincham
of law firm CMS Cameron McKenna "and of course employers will
often be concerned with the reputation damage that may ensue
from a court appearance."
Woodford was unanimously dismissed by the Olympus board last
October after persistently demanding answers from top executives
about a string of obscure and hefty payments linked to
He was told to vacate his Tokyo apartment, return his
laptops and telephones and take the bus to the airport.
Olympus said Woodford was sacked because the 30-year company
veteran failed to understand its management style and Japanese
culture. But over the following weeks, regulators uncovered an
accounting fraud stretching back over more than a decade.
Armed with a damning and high-level independent panel report
slating "rotten" Olympus bosses as well as a report from auditor
PwC - and against the backdrop of a clutch of arrests
and an international investigation by U.S., Japanese and UK
prosecutors - Woodford might appear to have a strong case.
But he first needs to show it can be heard in Britain.
Woodford, who was Olympus's president for six months
before also being handed the CEO role last October, has spent
much of his career in Britain, where he owns an apartment in
London and a home near Olympus's UK headquarters in Southend,
His Spanish wife Nuncy teaches locally in Southend and his
two children attended nearby schools.
If the case is thrown out on jurisdiction grounds
Woodford has said he plans a defamation suit in the High Court.
(Editing by Mark Potter)