Strange Members at SBI Management Advisory Committee

Katsuhiko Kumazaki, an ex-prosecutor, and Yoshiya Yajima, Running Swamp of Seat-losing MPs…. What is SBI’s Concern?

February 20, 2014

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“Bio business is a product that the heaven gave to me, as I am at the last stage as a manager.” SBI Holdings had announced earnings result of 3Q 2014(Oct.~Dec.) in February 5th. As usual, Yoshitaka Kitao, the president gave explanation himself. Almost one-hour passing, his remarks turned out to be a self-acclaiming monologue. SBI’s precursor, SBI Investment was established 15 years ago, with 50 million yen paid-in-capital invested by Masayoshi Son of Softbank. Kitao seemed like praising his accomplishment of 15 years by mentioning that a firm of 55 employees grew to that of 5,309, or the Son’s 50 million investment increased to 81.7 billion yen.

Alone in Wilderness?

We are not surprised with his ranting, but many who was watching ridiculed when Kitao started to say “I am already 63 years old,”; he suggested that “an entrepreneurship must be maintained” as a DNA to his followers, as if suggesting he may retire soon. The phrase introduced in the beginning was coming out from such a context. His retirement? It really sounds sudden. It is true that his reliable lieutenants from Nomura-days have been leaving. The last remaining right-hand, Taro Izuchi, the EVP, had fallen ill, and no longer available for Kitao’s service. Few employees, among 5,000 strong, know the history that SBI Investment was an arm of Softbank. Kitao might have thought that he was standing alone in wilderness.

Another major move by SBI was noteworthy. A certain “Management Advisory Committee” was set up. Five people were selected as advisory members. What was Kitao’s intention in selecting these people while suggesting retirement? It is very interesting indeed.

Takashi Ejiri Partner, Nishimura Asahi Law Office

Katsuhiko Kumazaki Lawyer, Commissioner of Nippon Professional Baseball

Noriaki Shimazaki Advisor, Sumitomo Corporation

Heizo Takenaka Professor, Keio University, and Committee Member of Competitiveness Council of Japanese Government

Yoshiya Yajima  Chairman and Representative Director, Taijyu Research & Consulting

According to SBI’s accounts, the objective of this committee is to increase soundness of management, and to strengthen corporate governance. It invited people who have broad media exposure, but to us it seems some are questionable in light of highly idealistic objective of heightening corporate transparency and soundness.

Katsuhiko Kumazaki is the former head of Special Investigation Department of Tokyo Prosecutors Office. While he was the deputy head of that organization, he arrested and indicted the big shot Makoto Kanemaru, former Vice President of LDP (he was in retirement at the time of arrest and indictment). He has been known to show tolerance to any party regardless of reputation, hence we hear voices that his quality as a lawyer being questioned in his career after he quit from the public office. He is supposedly influential to special prosecutors, and Kitao may rely on him as a body guard, along with a research firm stuffed with many ex-Tokyo Metropolitan Police officers, “SP Network”, that he uses often. Further, the person called Yajima, not well-known to public, is more annoying. His firm was formerly called as “Taijyu Research Institute,” very much like a mysterious think tank. The president of the firm is one Yasunori Ebisawa, former Mayor of Fujisawa City, and a graduate of Matsushita Institute of Government and Management, a boot camp for politician- wannabees made by late Konosuke Matsushita, with a strong tie with DPJ. Taijyu Research and Consulting now employs a number of ex-MPs of DPJ who lost parliament seats at the general election of December 16, 2012 as its executive directors. As an example, Takeshi Hidaka, who used to be an assistant of Ichiro Ozawa (currently the head of People’s Life Party), and turned a MP form DPJ, is one of the executive directors.

The Past of the Mysterious Think Tank

Among many think tanks, it is rare to line up that many ex-MPs, mostly those belonged to DPJ. Also, the advisors include big shots (albeit “former”), such as Kouji Kunimatsu (former chief of Police Agency), Hiroshi Kumagai (former METI Minister), and Okiharu Yasuoka (former Minister of Judiciary). The founder and owner of this think tank, Yoshiya Yajima was once jeered by a weekly magazine, “Shukan Bunshun”. The article reported that Yajima used to run a talent agency, and caused a scandal by hosting an orgy party inviting male actors and employees of TV broadcasting stations. The interviewed Yajima admitted the fact, and explained: “I am now wholeheartedly reformed”. We don’t want to assert the past deed accounts for everything now, but what he is trying to do by assembling trashes in politics, or how to advise SBI management matters? A person familiar with Yajima heard from him that FACTA was influenced by underground forces. It is laughable. Why Kitao made up an “Advisory Committee” by inviting such a person. Is he trying to evade something, by suggesting a retirement?