Ghosn used Nissan-Mitsubishi venture to inflate pay

Former Nissan chairman Carlos Ghosn fled to Lebanon in December. (Reuters / file photo)
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Updated 10 February 2020

Ghosn used Nissan-Mitsubishi venture to inflate pay

  • Ghosn was arrested in Japan in 2018 on financial misconduct charges but fled to Lebanon last December
  • In a Dutch court, lawyers for the firms alleged Ghosn awarded himself compensation to offset a cut in his declared earnings at Nissan

AMSTERDAM: Carlos Ghosn, the fugitive former auto executive, used a joint venture between Nissan and Mitsubishi to inflate his pay, effectively clawing back a cut to his declared wages, and to cover a personal tax debt, lawyers for the companies said on Monday.
Ghosn, the former chairman of the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi alliance, was arrested in Japan in 2018 on financial misconduct charges but fled to Lebanon last December.
He has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing, including concerning the way he was compensated.
Nissan and Mitsubishi have been pouring over payments made to Ghosn from their Dutch-based joint venture, and had already challenged a salary and bonus worth 7.3 million which they claim he granted himself without the knowledge of their respective boards.
In new arguments submitted to a Dutch court on Monday, lawyers for the firms alleged Ghosn awarded himself that compensation to offset a cut in his declared earnings at Nissan.
Ghosn — who was under public scrutiny in Japan and France over his wages during his tenure, though he has argued since that other auto industry bosses were paid far more — had agreed to cut his pay when stepping down as Nissan CEO in April 2017.
He stayed on as chairman, and also had the top job at Renault.
Representatives of Ghosn’s legal team said the allegations of unknown or unjust payments were unfounded.
“We don’t dispute that Mr.Ghosn received a good salary,” attorney Roeland de Mol said. “But he had the heavy task of getting French and Japanese companies to cooperate. He didn’t retire to go play golf after he stepped down as Nissan CEO.”
The new details about Ghosn’s compensation emerged during a court hearing in Amsterdam centered on an unlawful dismissal suit brought by the former auto executive against the Japanese carmakers.
Ghosn is seeking 15 million euros in damages from the Nissan and Mitsubishi, who, he alleges, violated Dutch labor laws.
Nissan-Mitsubishi lawyer Eelco Meerdink said there was evidence that Ghosn made the alliance pay a personal French tax debt of €498,000 in 2018.
France’s Renault covered the cost of the bill in a first instance, and was refunded by Ghosn, who had received a payment from the Nissan-Mitsubishi joint venture for the same amount, Meerdink said. Renault declined to comment.
The lawyer also alleged that Ghosn had arranged a “pre-payment” of his 2019 salary in 2018 to avoid a scheduled increase in Dutch income tax rates.
Nissan told the Dutch court on Monday that it would request that Ghosn repay all of the compensation received from the joint venture with Mitsubishi, as there was no evidence that it had been properly authorized, a source close to Nissan said.
As part of Ghosn’s unlawful dismissal case against the Japanese carmakers, his lawyers are now pushing for the release of internal documents which the carmakers used to substantiate his removal on allegations of financial misconduct.
Ghosn’s legal team claims he was unfairly dismissed as chairman of Nissan-Mitsubishi BV, a Dutch-registered entity, because the details of the allegations were not shared with him.
His lawyers say the documents will show the companies were aware of his activities.
De Mol, the attorney, said he was pushing for “a full debate on the reasons of Ghosn’s dismissal... Mr. Ghosn is ready for a fight.”
Nissan-Mitsubishi lawyer Meerdink dismissed the demands, saying the reasons for the executive’s dismissal were clear, and that his lawyers were “going on a fishing expedition.”
The Amsterdam court said it would postpone any decision on documents until Nissan and Mitsubishi file their full case on the reasons for Ghosn’s dismissal, expected on March 26.


Australian watchdog considers its own Google antitrust case

Updated 37 min 26 sec ago

Australian watchdog considers its own Google antitrust case

  • Competition and Consumer Commission launched Australian court action against Google in July

CANBERRA, Australia: Australia’s competition watchdog will consider its own antitrust case against Google, the commission chairman said Wednesday after the US Justice Department sued the company for abusing its dominance in online search and advertising.
Competition and Consumer Commission chairman Rod Sims described the US case filed Tuesday as one of the world’s biggest antitrust cases in the past 20 years.
“I’m delighted the D.o.J.’s taking it on and we’ll follow it really closely,” Sims told the National Press Club, referring to the US Department of Justice.
“We’re going to look at it and see whether there’s any value in what we might do,” Sims added.
Separately, Sims is drafting legislation to address the imbalance in bargaining power between Google and the Australian media businesses that want the tech giant to pay for journalism.
The bills, that will be ready to be introduced to Parliament by December, would empower an arbitrator to make binding decisions on how much Google and Facebook must pay media companies for news content.
Sims said his commission “had a lot of talk” with the US Justice Department before he released a report in July last year that recommended more government regulation on the market power of Google and Facebook that would ensure fair deals for other media businesses and more control for individuals on how their data was used.
Sim’s commission launched Australian court action against Google in July alleging the California-based company misled account holders about its use of their personal data.
The commission alleges the Google misled millions of Australians to obtain their consent and expand the scope of personal information that Google collects about users’ Internet activity to target advertising. Google denies the allegations.
In October last year, the commission sued Google in an Australian court alleging the company broke consumer law by misleading Android users about how their location data was collected and used. That case will be heard by the Federal Court next month. Google also denies that allegation.
Sims said Google was lobbying “every politician at Parliament House” ahead of draft legislation being introduced to make it pay for news.
Google has said the proposed laws would result in “dramatically worse Google Search and YouTube,” put free services at risk and could lead to users’ data “being handed over to big news businesses.”
Facebook has warned it might block Australian news content rather than pay for it.