Nissan pays SEC $15m but Carlos Ghosn just $1m

Jill Petzinger
Jill Petzinger, Germany Correspondent, Yahoo Finance UK
Former Nissan chairman Carlos Ghosn leaves the Tokyo Detention House, Japan on 25 April. Photo: Issei Kato/Reuters/TPX

Japanese car maker Nissan agreed to pay the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) $15m (£12m) to settle fraud charges over the false reporting of $140m in compensation and retirement benefits for former chairman Carlos Ghosn.

Ghosn himself will pay just $1m, while former director Greg Kelly got a fine of $100,000 for aiding and abetting Ghosn.

Ghosn has a reported net worth of $120m. The former chairman of Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi group was arrested on charges of financial misconduct in Tokyo in November in 2018 and held in prison in Japan until March 2019. He was arrested again in April and is currently free on bail awaiting a criminal trial on charges that include abusing corporate trust, using company funds for personal gain, and failing to report $80m income.

In the civil lawsuit, the SEC claimed Ghosn “engaged in a scheme to conceal more than $90m of compensation from public disclosure,” and took steps to increase his retirement allowance “by more than $50m.” The settlement also details how Ghosn and Kelly allegedly agreed to award the former automotive boss future pay as “consultant fees” and that he would be allowed to chose whether he would be paid his retirement allowance in US dollars or Japanese yen.

Nissan, Ghosn, and Kelly must neither admit nor deny the SEC charges, as part of the settlement. The disgraced executive is also banned from serving as CEO or director of a public company in the US for the next 10 years.

"Investors are entitled to know how a company compensates its top executives. Ghosn and Kelly went to great lengths to conceal this information from investors and the market," said Stephanie Avakian, co-director of the SEC's enforcement division.