TOKYO – Nissan Motor Co. has filed suit against former chairman Carlos Ghosn seeking 10 billion yen ($91 million) in payback for claimed damages he inflicted through alleged financial misconduct and fraud
Nissan's move adds to the legal stakes following Ghosn’s recent flight from Japan.
Nissan filed the civil lawsuit on Wednesday in Yokohama District Court, in the city south of Tokyo where Japan’s No. 2 carmaker has its global headquarters.
"The financial damages claimed by Nissan are linked to Ghosn's breach of fiduciary duty as a company director and his misappropriation of Nissan’s resources and assets," Nissan said in a news release.
"The legal actions form part of Nissan’s policy of holding Ghosn accountable for the harm and financial losses incurred by the company as a result of his misconduct," the automaker said.
Nissan said it is intensifying its campaign for damages following Ghosn’s "illegal flight from justice."
Ghosn jumped bail in Japan at the end of December and fled to his ancestral homeland of Lebanon, where he is relatively safe because Lebanon typically does not extradite its citizens.
Ghosn had been awaiting trial in Japan on four counts of financial misconduct during his time at the helm of Nissan. Ghosn denies all the charges and says he felt compelled to surreptitiously depart Japan because it would be impossible for him to get a fair trial in the country.
People close to Nissan’s board said last month that directors are stepping up the drive to seek redress following Ghosn’s escape. Ghosn had been expected to head to trial in Japan this spring.
Nissan said the damages it seeks are based on costs incurred by Nissan due to Ghosn and his "corrupt practices over many years."
Nissan cited the following damages:
- The use of overseas residential property without paying rent, the private use of corporate jets, payments to his sister and payments to his personal lawyer in Lebanon.
- Costs related to Nissan’s internal investigation into Ghosn’s alleged misconduct.
- Legal and regulatory costs incurred in Japan, the U.S., the Netherlands and “other territories.”
Nissan said the new claims come in addition to an ongoing civil lawsuit Nissan initiated against Ghosn in the British Virgin Islands on August 30, 2019. In that case, Nissan claims “unauthorized payments and transactions were processed through special purpose entities.”
Nissan is seeking the title of Ghosn’s luxury yacht and other damages or other relief.
More legal action may be in store. Nissan said it reserves the right to pursue court remedy for “groundless and defamatory remarks” made by Ghosn to the media after his escape to Lebanon.
A Ghosn spokesperson said the ousted chairman’s lawyers will respond to the content of Nissan’s claims once they have had a chance to thoroughly review them.
“It is part of the character assassination campaign against the former executive,” Ghosn’s team said of the lawsuit in a statement. “Nissan is trying to create a diversion on the eve of the Japanese group’s worst expected financial results since 2009.”
Nissan reports fiscal third-quarter earnings on Feb. 13, and people familiar with the figures say the results are bad. Reuters reported the company may even slump to a quarterly loss.
Nissan’s counterpunch comes on the heels of a separate case brought by Ghosn against Nissan Motor Co. and alliance partner Mitsubishi Motors Corp. in the Netherlands.
In that case, Ghosn seeks damages 15 million euros ($16.3 million) in damages claiming he was unlawfully dismissed as chairman of their Netherlands-based joint venture, Nissan-Mitsubishi BV.
Ghosn’s team argues that he was wrongly fired because the companies did not share the details of the allegations against him. The companies counter that Ghosn reaped about 7.82 million euros ($8.6 million) in improper compensation by authorizing large payouts to himself.
Ghosn’s lawyers appeared in a Dutch court this week to demand Nissan and Mitsubishi release internal documents on the matter. Reuters reported that the court delayed a decision until the companies file an explanation of their reasons for terminating Ghosn, expected by March 26.