By Geert De Lombaerde
The CEO of Nissan Motor Co. said Monday he will resign his position in a week after reports surfaced that he had received improper payments under a Nissan stock payment plan.
Hiroto Saikawa has told reporters he did not know about the overpayment of about $400,000, which he called an error, and said he will pay back the money. But Nissan Chairman Yasushi Kimura said Monday the stock plan was “intentionally manipulated.”
Ironically, Saikawa had ordered an audit of the equity plan’s workings in the wake of the ouster and arrest of former Chairman Carlos Ghosn over alleged financial misconduct — an alleged scheme the company now says cost it $327 million over a period of years.
Saikawa’s pending resignation is the latest in a long series of Nissan executive departures in the wake of the Ghosn scandal. The company’s North American headquarters in Cool Springs has seen the appointment of a new chairman, a new top sales executive and a new Americas leader for Infiniti, among others.
The planned exit by Nissan’s CEO also is already stirring talk that negotiations for a full merger between Nissan and Renault could reignite after stalling earlier this year. Also involved in some of those conversations was FCA Group, the parent of Fiat and Chrysler, among other brands.