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And then there were three

On Friday November 21, when the board of Yamaichi Securities met to discuss downsizing the firm, president Shohei Nozawa stunned board members by proposing instead that it should wind itself up. Andrew Horvat reports on the events leading to the collapse of one of Japan's big four securities houses.

The end of Hokkaido Takushoku

A few days after the collapse of Yamaichi Securities in November, Jun Ashida, designer of Japanese Empress Michiko's clothes, sent his personnel director to Yamaichi's head office to look over some of the soon to be unemployed staff of Japan's number-four brokerage firm. Writing on the front page of the Nikkei, Japan's leading financial daily, Ashida was brimming with praise for the 7,400 Yamaichi staff who were still at their desks even though their firm was no longer in business. "In the midst of such troubles, they continue to put on a good face," he wrote.

Other observers of Japan's largest corporate collapse were less kind. As far as securities analysts, ministry of finance officials, and angry members of Japan's parliament were concerned, senior officers of Yamaichi had spent far too much time putting on a good face and not enough time at keeping up with rapid changes in Japan's financial environment.

At the time Yamaichi went under with liabilities of ¥3 trillion ($24 billion), a former president and five other senior staff were under indictment for dealings with a racketeer. In parliament, Yamaichi was to be accused of having defrauded shareholders of trillions of yen by failing to make public $2 billion in off-book losses until after going out of business.

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