Monday, June 05, 2006

I know why the caged bird sings (with apologies to Maya Angelou)

Well, they are at it again.

The Special Investigations Division of the Tokyo Prosecutors office is gearing up to paw through a company's files, searching for crimes. The domestic press has been prepped with leaks and exclusive briefings. The Financial Services Agency and the Securities Exchange Surveillance Commission are out to lunch. An archetypal member of the Roppongi Hills Tribe of hard-charging, profit-oriented businessmen is about to be held for questioning, along with a handful of his top associates. The head of the Keidanren has offered his two yen's worth, tut-tutting about the relentless pursuit of money rather than value.

Why are we being treated to this spectacle again? And how much of it are we going to buy this time?

According to this morning's Tokyo Shimbun, the crime occured in September 2004 at a meeting between investor Murakami Yoshiaki, Livedoor president Horie Takafumi and (dum-da-dum-dum) Livedoor CFO Miyauchi Ryoji. Supposedly at this meeting Murakami told Horie that if Livedoor bought 35% of Nippon Hoso(the radio affiliate and mochikabu aite of Fuji Television), then Livedoor and MAC Investments--Murakami's fund--would together hold over 50% of outstanding shares. This holding would allow them to takeover Nippon Hoso.

At the time of this purported conversation, MAC owned 12% of Nippon Hoso. However, by January 5, 2005, MAC's share of Nippon Hoso had risen to 18.75%.

On February 8, 2005, Horie announced the acquisition of 29.63% of Nippon Hoso in afterhours trading, bringing Livedoor's total holdings to 35% and launching a furious takeover battle. However, rather than supporting Livedoor's takeover as he earlier promised, Murakami double-crossed Livedoor by rapidly selling four fifths of his stake in Nippon Hoso, earning a huge profit on the inflated shares. By March 28, 2005, MAC held only 3.44% of Nippon Hoso.

O.K., let's do a check of the rubble-strewn landscape.

1) The source of accusation against Murakami is a) Horie, or b) Miyauchi.

Oh, geez, which could it be?

For those who are not keeping score, Miyauchi Ryoji is an admitted liar and fraud.

2) Since when is the Special Investigations Division of the Tokyo District Police Agency in charge of finance industry fraud? (The New York Attorney General's Office has special rights under the New York State constitution allowing it to investigate securities and banking fraud. Otherwise, financial industry crimes would be outside its purview). One would need a fairly sophisticated understanding of securities law to prosecute these cases--so how many people are working on securities crime full time at the Hibiya Koen office?

3) Murakami has former members of the National Police Agency on his staff (bright boy, he). Is it possible Murakami Fund staff were tipped off about the investigation, and this information played a part in Murakami's sudden decision in May to fold up MAC and move all its operations to Singapore?

Now THAT would be insider trading!

4) If Murakami staffers were alerted as to the investigation, do you think the leakers were motivated by a) money, b) loyalty to their former colleagues, or c) qualms about the propriety of the actions taken by the Special Investigations Division?

5) Do you think Miyauchi would bear any kind of animus toward Murakami, especially if Murakami nods and winks had led Miyauchi to approve the plan to try to take over Nippon Hoso, only for Murakami to turn around and sell his stake?

6) Who provided the original material on Livedoor that set this whole mess in motion?

So many questions...so many questions...

1 comment:

Robert Dujarric said...

Yes, a strange situation. I'd like to know why only "New Japan" gets the attention of the fraud squad; I am not aware that "Old Japan," keitsu and all, was morally superior to the new version.