Japan minister says he never asked adviser to contact Toshiba shareholders

TOKYO (Reuters) -Japan's trade minister on Friday said he never directed an adviser to contact Toshiba Corp shareholders after a report accused his ministry of colluding with company executives to pressure stockholders to fall in line with its management plans.

The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) is waiting for Toshiba to respond to the report from independent investigators, Hiroshi Kajiyama said at a regular press briefing.

The report says Toshiba's management asked METI to help counter activist overseas stock owners at its annual general meeting last July.

The shareholder-commissioned report released on Thursday also alleges that Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, when he was chief cabinet secretary last year, verbally encouraged that pressure during a meeting with a senior Toshiba executive.

Suga, who left Japan yesterday for a meeting of G7 leaders in Britain, has denied that allegation

As part of METI's response, special adviser Hiromichi Mizuno approached Harvard University's endowment fund warning it that its vote could be subject to a regulatory probe, sources told Reuters last year. The U.S. university subsequently abstained from the vote.

Mizuno, who describes himself as a friend of tech entrepreneur Elon Musk and serves on Tesla Inc's board, oversaw Japan's $1.4 trillion Government Pension Investment Fund (GPIF) before becoming a METI adviser. In December, he was appointed as United Nations Special Envoy on Innovative Finance and Sustainable Investment.

Mizuno did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Toshiba's shares fell 1.7% in early trade while the Nikkei 225 index was mostly flat.

(Reporting by Makiko Yamazaki; writing by Tim Kelly; Editing by Tom Hogue and Edwina Gibbs)

06/11/2021 1:53

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