TOKYO -- Japan's Kobe Steel said Thursday that it has demoted three officers in its aluminum and copper business due to their involvement in the widespread falsification of product quality at factories.
The steelmaker will decide the fate of top executives, including Chairman and President Hiroya Kawasaki, pending a full report by an external committee of lawyers. The report was expected this year, but has been delayed to around the end of February, the company said.
The three executives in question "were aware of part of the improper conduct, so for now they needed to be relieved of their duties," Executive Vice President Naoto Umehara told reporters Thursday.
Managing Executive Officers Takumi Fujii and Nobuaki Isono and Executive Officer Seiji Hirata were reassigned to be assistants to the head of the aluminum and copper business.
Umehara was reticent about what will become of Kawasaki and other relevant figures, saying the company aims "to make a decision once we have the external investigators' report."
Executive Vice President Akira Kaneko, head of aluminum and copper, apparently received no report of the data cheating from the three accused officers.
The report was pushed back because investigators found voluntary inspections to be insufficient at about 70% of Kobe Steel's 79 production sites across Japan. The steelmaker is undertaking new, more thorough checks, with an eye toward completing the work by early February. This is expected to enable the investigative committee to verify the results by the month's end.
Revelations in October that Kobe Steel had doctored product quality data have been followed by a raft of similar scandals throughout Japan's raw materials sector. The fallout recently claimed the heads of Mitsubishi Materials and Toray Industries group companies Mitsubishi Cable Industries and Toray Hybrid Cord, likewise found to have been falsifying data.