Nissan top executive Munoz resigns amid broadened Ghosn probe

Jose Munoz, who was the automaker’s chief performance officer and head of its China operations, had been a ‘person of interest’ in Nissan’s widening internal investigation. (Reuters)
Updated 12 January 2019
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Nissan top executive Munoz resigns amid broadened Ghosn probe

  • In a statement, Nissan said that Munoz had ‘elected to resign’ from the company, effective immediately
  • The scandal has sent shockwaves through the automotive industry and has escalated tensions between Nissan and Renault

TOKYO: One of Nissan’s top executives has resigned, further rattling the Japanese automaker’s management team as it broadens an investigation into ousted Chairman Carlos Ghosn’s alleged financial misconduct.
Jose Munoz, widely considered as a close ally to Ghosn and a possible successor to lead the automaking partnership between Nissan and France’s Renault, had been a “person of interest” in Nissan’s widening internal investigation.
The 53-year-old, who was Nissan’s chief performance officer and head of its China operations, made the announcement in a LinkedIn post on Friday. In a statement, Nissan said that Munoz had “elected to resign” from the company, effective immediately. It declined to offer details.
He becomes the latest executive casualty since Nissan in November removed Ghosn as chairman and fired representative director Greg Kelly.
The resignation deals another blow to the Japanese automaker, which is grappling with the scandal at a time when it is struggling to shore up profitability in the US and expand aggressively in China.
Reuters had reported earlier on Friday that the Japanese automaker was looking into decisions made in the US by Munoz who led Nissan’s North American operations from 2016 to 2018.
“Unfortunately, Nissan is currently involved in matters that have and will continue to divert its focus,” Munoz said in his post.
“As I have repeatedly and recently made clear to the company, I look forward to continuing to assist Nissan in its investigations.”
People with knowledge of the issue have said that Munoz, who had been placed on a leave of absence earlier in the month, had not been co-operating with the internal investigation.
Ghosn, once the most celebrated executives in the auto industry and the anchor of Nissan’s alliance with Renault, remains in custody in a Tokyo detention center since his initial arrest in late November.
Ghosn has been indicted on two counts of under-reporting his income, and aggravated breach of trust for temporarily shifting personal investment losses worth ¥1.85 billion ($17 million) to Nissan.
The scandal has sent shockwaves through the automotive industry and has escalated tensions between Nissan and Renault, where Ghosn remains CEO and chairman.
Munoz joined the automaker in 2004 in Europe and led its significant expansion in North America after the global financial crisis. Since then, Nissan has succeeded in raising its market share in the US and posted record sales.
Earlier this year, Nissan tapped Munoz to oversee its operations in China where it plans to ramp up sales over the next few years.
Since then, the world’s largest auto market has been showing signs of a slowdown, prompting the automaker to cut local production plans in the coming months.


World leaders prepare for Davos amid gloomy forecasts

Klaus Schwab, founder and executive chairman of the World Economic Forum. (AFP)
Updated 16 January 2019
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World leaders prepare for Davos amid gloomy forecasts

  • Delegates to annual forum to include presidents of Iraq and Afghanistan

DUBAI: World leaders are preparing to head to the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, amid the riskiest global backdrop in years, according to a report from the event organizer itself.

As the WEF announced the names of some of the 3,000 participants set to attend the meeting and details of the four-day agenda, it also published a gloomy outlook on international politics, economics, the environment and technology. 

Rising geopolitical and geo-economic tensions are the most urgent risks in 2019, with 90 percent of experts surveyed expecting further economic confrontation between major powers, according to the WEF’s annual Global Risks Report.

“The world’s ability to foster collective action in the face of urgent major crises has reached crisis levels, with worsening international relations hindering action across a growing array of serious challenges. Meanwhile, a darkening economic outlook, in part caused by geopolitical tensions, looks set to further reduce the potential for international cooperation in 2019,” it added.

Although political and economic worries were top of the immediate agenda for the 1,000 experts polled by the WEF, the environment and climate change are also a cause for concern, as are “rapidly evolving” cyber and technological threats, the WEF said.

Børge Brende, the WEF president, said: “With global trade and economic growth at risk in 2019, there is a more urgent need than ever to renew the architecture of international cooperation. We simply do not have the gunpowder to deal with the kind of slowdown that current dynamics might lead us toward. What we need now is coordinated, concerted action to sustain growth and to tackle the grave threats facing our world today.”

The leaders who will begin to arrive in Switzerland in the next week include Shinzo Abe, prime minister of Japan; Jair Bolsonaro, president of Brazil; Angela Merkel, chancellor of Germany; and Wang Qishan, vice president of China.

With US President Donald Trump pulling out of the meeting to deal with the partial government shutdown, the American delegation is expected to be led by Steven Mnuchin, Treasury secretary, and Mike Pompeo, secretary of state.

The Middle East is well represented at the meeting, with at least nine heads of state or government from the region, including Palestine, Iraq, Egypt, Jordan and Lebanon. Saudi Arabia will be represented by a team of senior policymakers and business leaders.

The risk report will give them all food for thought in the Alpine resort.

Asking whether the world is “sleepwalking into a crisis,” the report responded: “Global risks are intensifying but the collective will to tackle them appears to be lacking. Instead, divisions are hardening. The world’s move into a new phase of strongly state-centered politics continued throughout 2018.

“The idea of ‘taking back control’ — whether domestically from political rivals or externally from multilateral or supranational organizations — resonates across many countries and many issues.”

Macro-economic risks have moved into sharper focus, it said. 

“Financial market volatility increased and the headwinds facing the global economy intensified. The rate of global growth appears to have peaked,” the report said, pointing to a slowdown in growth forecasts for China as well as high levels of global debt — at 225 percent of global gross domestic product (GDP), significantly higher than before the financial crisis 10 years ago.

Raising the prospect of a “climate catastrophe,” the report said extreme weather, which many experts attribute to rapid climate change, was a risk of great concern. “The results of climate inaction are becoming increasingly clear,’ the WEF said.

Of the 3,000 participants at Davos, which runs from Jan. 22 to 25, around 78 percent are men, with an average age of 54. 

The oldest will be the 92-year-old British broadcaster David Attenborough, the youngest 16-year-old South African wildlife photographer Skye Meaker.