Nissan Motor Co. is taking the first comprehensive steps to share details with Renault about allegations against Carlos Ghosn, according to a person familiar with the matter, a move that may help ease a climate of suspicion that has clouded their partnership since the executive was arrested three weeks ago in Japan.
Nissan lawyers have briefed their Renault counterparts about the reasons why Ghosn was charged with financial crimes in Tokyo, said the person, who asked not to be named because the deliberations aren’t public. The Japanese company obtained clearance from local prosecutors to be able to circulate the information, the person said.
Renault and its most powerful shareholder, the French government, have complained since Nov. 19, when Ghosn was taken into custody, that they’ve been kept in the dark. A lack of written evidence and Ghosn’s presumption of innocence were cited by the French carmaker for the decision by the board to install an interim management team rather than oust Ghosn as chairman and CEO. Details from Nissan could hasten steps to remove him.
The incarceration of the globe-trotting car executive has also brought tension to the forefront of the three-company Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi alliance led by Ghosn. The timing of the Japanese probe prompted some analysts to say the scandal may have been manufactured in order to block a deeper integration between Nissan and Renault that he advocated. Nissan CEO Hiroto Saikawa, who has strongly opposed a merger, denied that such a motive was behind the investigation.
In response to Renault’s request for information about the allegations against Ghosn, Nissan had in the past offered to share a summary. Renault declined to review that presentation, citing the need to see the full report and to have lawyer-to-lawyer communication. At this point, it’s being left to Renault lawyers to share the information received from Nissan with the French carmaker’s board, the person said.
French newspaper Les Echos reported Tuesday that Renault was able to review the document it had been asking for.
Renault has separately been conducting its own investigation into whether the pay packages of its top managers, including Ghosn, were properly disclosed. That review is nearing its initial conclusions, and the board is expected to be briefed this week, people familiar with the matter said on Dec. 7.
A Renault spokeswoman declined to comment. Nissan declined to comment. Ghosn lawyers have said the prosecutor’s case is flawed.
What's next at Renault
Should Ghosn be removed from the helm of Renault, his roles of CEO and chairman are likely to be split, Bloomberg has reported. Thierry Bollore was hand-picked by Ghosn as his successor and has been temporarily handed Ghosn's CEO powers at Renault. Ghosn has already been removed as chairman at both Nissan and Mitsubishi.
Renault and Nissan have complicated cross-shareholdings, and poor relations would make operations difficult.
The French carmaker is the largest shareholder in Nissan and has voting rights, while the Japanese company is the second-largest shareholder in Renault, with no votes. Nissan is keen to achieve a more equal power balance but its demands have been stonewalled by Renault and the French state.