Reports of Pay-Off to Racketeer Tank Stock

Aug 12, 2002

Yakult Honsha Co. Ltd., a Japanese maker of sweet milk-like drinks, denied it had made illegal payoffs to a suspected racketeer, but its shares still fell more than 10 percent, reports Reuters.

The Mainichi Shimbun newspaper reported that Yakult had paid 90 million yen ($750,000) during a five-year period to a suspected racketeer who had threatened to disrupt its shareholder meetings, and that it had hidden the costs as advertising expenses. The Mainichi report also carried a denial from Yakult, but investors still sent the shares down 10.3 percent to 1,167 yen.

Racketeers, known as “sokaiya” in Japanese, threaten to disrupt shareholder meetings by asking embarrassing questions unless they receive a payoff to keep quiet. The number of “sokaiya” incidents has fallen in recent years after legal changes in 1997 imposed tougher punishments for those giving and receiving payoffs. Punishments include a prison term of up to three years or a fine of up to three million yen.

Moderator Comment: Is organized crime an issue in U.S. food distribution and retailing?

It has been a while since we last picked up a daily newspaper
and read about a grocery executive found dead in the trunk of his car. That’s
the good news… [George
Anderson – Moderator

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