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Nissan-Renault alliance

Nissan CEO Saikawa admits to receiving inappropriate bonus

Chief denies involvement and promises to reimburse the company

Nissan Motor CEO Hiroto Saikawa is accused of changing a performance-linked bonus in violation of internal rules, according to a company investigation.   © Reuters

TOKYO -- Nissan Motor CEO Hiroto Saikawa on Thursday admitted to receiving inappropriate compensation but denied he was responsible, pushing back against an internal probe that suggested he may have added 47 million yen ($443,000) to his pay by tweaking the terms of a performance-based bonus.

The issue laid out in a report to the Japanese automaker's auditing committee on Wednesday relates to stock appreciation rights, an incentive plan linked to the share price. In May 2013, the company apparently let Saikawa push back the predetermined payout date for this bonus by a week to capture a rise in the stock.

This might have run counter to internal company rules, according to the report.

Saikawa said he and several other directors had left the matter entirely up to former Nissan representative director Greg Kelly and the company's secretariat. Acknowledging misconduct but denying his own involvement, Saikawa said after a board meeting that he would "repay any money that needs to be repaid to the company."

The CEO said that the director remuneration scheme is a legacy of the era of ousted Chairman Carlos Ghosn. "The scheme itself needs to be reviewed and I am deeply sorry for the suspicion," he added.

The automaker began the probe in response to a magazine interview with Kelly in June, in which the allegations were first aired.

Kelly was arrested last year, at the same time as Ghosn, on accusations of helping the then-chairman understate his remuneration. The compensation issues, cited in the eventual ouster of both from Nissan's leadership, included alleged concealment of a stock appreciation rights plan.

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