TOKYO — Nissan Motors said Monday it was moving to dismiss chairman Carlos Ghosn after uncovering “significant acts of misconduct,” including underreporting his own salary.
Ghosn is considered one of the car industry’s top executives and is the one of the most highly paid corporate bosses in Japan. He is widely credited with having saved Nissan from bankruptcy, and he also serves as chairman and chief executive of France’s Renault.
Brazilian-born, of Lebanese descent and a French citizen, he is one of the few foreigners in such a senior position in Japan.
Nissan said it had been conducting an internal investigation over the past several months based on a report from a whistleblower regarding misconduct involving Ghosn and Representative Director Greg Kelly.
“The investigation showed that over many years both Ghosn and Kelly have been reporting compensation amounts in the Tokyo Stock Exchange securities report that were less than the actual amount, in order to reduce the disclosed amount of Carlos Ghosn’s compensation,” it said in a statement.
“Also, in regards to Ghosn, numerous other significant acts of misconduct have been uncovered, such as personal use of company assets, and Kelly’s deep involvement has also been confirmed.”
Nissan said CEO Hiroto Saikawa would propose to the board to remove Ghosn and Kelly.
The Yomiuri newspaper reported that Ghosn was arrested by Tokyo prosecutors, while the Asahi newspaper reported that prosecutors began searching offices at Nissan’s headquarters and other locations on Monday evening.
Renault shares tumbled 13 percent in Paris, while Nissan’s German-listed securities fell 12 percent.
Ghosn, 64, began his career at Michelin in France before moving on to Renault. He joined Nissan in 1999 after Renault bought a controlling stake and became its CEO from 2001 until 2017.
In June, Renault shareholders approved Ghosn’s $8.5 million compensation for 2017, according to Reuters. He also received the equivalent of more than $10 million in his final year as Nissan chief executive.
“Nissan deeply apologizes for causing great concern to our shareholders and stakeholders. We will continue our work to identify our governance and compliance issues, and to take appropriate measures,” the company said.