Secrecy, Hierarchy Haunt Japan Corporate Culture Despite Abe’s Reforms

A spate of high-profile scandals at leading Japanese companies show reforms and rhetoric aimed at improving the country’s corporate governance do not go far enough to unwind the culture of secrecy and hierarchy that plagues Japan Inc. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe won applause for introducing new corporate governance rules over the past two years in bid to attract foreign investment and shake-up Japan’s too-cozy corporate culture. But scandals including Mitsubishi Motor Corp’s admission that it used non-compliant fuel economy testing methods for decades and last year’s admission by laptop-to-nuclear conglomerate Toshiba Corp that it had inflated profits suggest much more remains to be done. Nearly five years after Michael Woodford was fired for exposing a cover-up at Olympus Corp, the British ex-CEO of the Japanese medical imaging gear maker says he’s still treated like a pariah in Japan, a view not uncommon in a corporate culture where whistleblowers are more often disdained than admired.

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