Toshiba says no evidence it pressured Harvard over AGM vote

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uFILE PHOTO: Reporters raise their hands for a question during a Toshiba news conference at the company headquarters in Tokyo

By Makiko Yamazaki

TOKYO (Reuters) – Toshiba Corp said on Wednesday an internal investigation found no evidence it was involved in any effort to pressure the Harvard University endowment fund over voting at the company’s annual shareholders meeting (AGM).

The Japanese conglomerate also said it had concluded there was no need to launch a third-party committee, demanded by its top shareholder Effissimo Capital Management, to investigate if the firm’s AGM in July was conducted fairly.

Reuters reported that Hiromichi Mizuno, a Japanese government adviser at the time, had told the Harvard fund that its vote at Toshiba’s AGM could be subject to a regulatory probe should it vote against the firm’s management.

When contacted by Toshiba’s audit committee, Harvard did not provide “any specific information as to whether or not there has been any undue pressure that Toshiba had taken part in,” the Japanese company said.

The audit committee also interviewed Toshiba’s CEO and two other top executives and screened their 30,000 email messages, and found no direct communication between them and Mizuno, a spokeswoman said. Mizuno is currently a board member of U.S. electric vehicle maker Tesla Inc.

The spokeswoman said Toshiba could not comment on whether anyone else had pressured Harvard, because it was “not in a position to address issues that the company is not involved in.”

Toshiba will hold an extraordinary meeting on March 18 to vote on separate proposals from two large shareholders – Effissimo, which wants an independent probe into the AGM, and U.S. hedge fund Farallon Capital Management, which wants a vote on the company’s investment strategy.

On Wednesday, Toshiba said it opposed both proposals and advised other shareholders to vote against them.

Regarding Farallon’s proposal, Toshiba said its investment policy was not subject to approval from shareholders, according to the Japanese companies act.

(Reporting by Makiko Yamazaki. Editing by Alex Richardson and Mark Potter)

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