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Shake-Up and Setback for Ghosn

Former Nissan chief cuts legal team; likely to lose Renault payout.

by on Feb.13, 2019

Carlos Ghosn fired his legal team, replacing them with a lawyer known as "the razor."

Carlos Ghosn, the former Nissan chairman facing charges of financial corruption, has shaken up his legal team in an effort to reverse a series of setbacks that have resulted in his being held in solitary confinement in a Tokyo prison since last November.

Ghosn is replacing his lawyers with a new team led by a high-profile defense attorney known in Japan as “the razor,” for his ability to win acquittals in a number of high-profile cases. That’s relatively rare in Japan where prosecutors claim conviction rates of more than 90%.

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Separately, Renault is ready to scrap about $34 million in deferred pay and severance Ghosn stood to collect after tendering his resignation last month. Nissan’s French alliance partner is also expected to drop a two-year non-compete clause, which would free up Ghosn to join another automaker once released from Japanese prison, Reuters news service reported.

Whether Ghosn might still find work in the industry is far from certain, even if he were to be acquitted of the multiple charges he now faces in Japan. The executive will turn 65 this year, an age when most senior industry officials retire – in some cases due to mandatory age limits.

(Ghosn affair hits Nissan’s bottom line, along with weak sales. Click Here for the story.)

French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said that there would be a fight over any large payout to Ghosn by Renault.

The move to cut Ghosn’s payout was spurred by the French government, Renault’s lead shareholder. Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire wanted to “ensure that Mr. Ghosn’s compensation is cut as much as possible,” ahead of the company’s board meeting this week.

“We’ve always been against excessive pay,” a Ministry official told Reuters. “It’s not about the presumption of innocence but ethics and decency.”

It is also a move that comes at a time when so-called “yellow vest” protestors are staging regular protests in Paris, among other things, to protest economic inequality.

If Renault does move to eliminate Ghosn’s payout it could trigger a new legal battle for a man who, barely three months ago, was seen as the most powerful executive in the auto industry.

That perception came crashing down on Nov. 19, minutes after the Brazilian-born exec’s corporate jet landed at Tokyo’s Haneda Airport. Authorities boarded the plane, taking both Ghosn and his lieutenant, Greg Kelly, off in handcuffs. Kelly was released on bail Christmas Day, but Ghosn remains in prison, prosecutors successfully arguing that he was a flight risk and that, if freed, he might attempt to tamper with evidence.

(Click Here to see how “plot and treason” brought Ghosn down, jailed exec says.)

Former Nissan colleague Greg Kelly was released on bail in December, while Ghosn remains in detention.


Now facing multiple charges, Ghosn has apparently grown frustrated with the failure of his legal team to at least win bail. On Wednesday, Motonari Otsuru, a former Japanese prosecutor, along with a colleague, officially resigned from the case.

They also drew criticism for permitting prosecutors to use aggressive interrogation methods while attempting to get Ghosn to sign a confession in Japanese, a language he doesn’t speak.

The original team is being replaced by a new one led by seasoned defense attorney Junichiro Hironaka, widely known as “the razor.”

Ghosn has been seen only once in public since his arrest, during a brief court hearing in January in which he attempted to win bail. He has since granted one interview to the Japanese newspaper Nikkei. He insisted he was innocent and blamed his arrest on “plot and treason” by those at Nissan who wanted to depose him and prevent the merger of Nissan and Renault he supported.

(To see why Ghosn is giving Renault for 50,000 euros, Click Here.)

In a statement issued Wednesday, Ghosn repeated his stand, declaring, “I look forward to defending myself vigorously, and this represents the beginning of the process of not only establishing my innocence but also shedding light on the circumstances that led to my unjust detention.”

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One Response to “Shake-Up and Setback for Ghosn”

  1. Allen says:

    Assuming he is ever released, he may just write a book and sell the screenplay rights and make more money than he ever did in the auto industry.