Nissan, Renault to Hire Auditor to Run Alliance Probe

(Bloomberg) -- Nissan Motor Co. and Renault SA hired the French auditor Mazars to investigate possible wrongdoing within their automotive alliance, people familiar with the matter said, a sign the partners are moving forward on a joint probe following Carlos Ghosn’s arrest for alleged financial crimes.

Mazars will look into Renault-Nissan BV, the Amsterdam-based unit set up by the carmakers to coordinate their alliance, for any misconduct such as the misuse of company assets, the people said, asking not to be identified discussing private matters. Spokesmen for Renault, Nissan and the alliance declined to comment. Mazars didn’t return calls seeking comment.

The audit follows the Nov. 19 arrest of Ghosn in Tokyo on allegations of understating his income at Nissan by tens of millions of dollars and temporarily transferring personal trading losses to the company. The auto-industry luminary, who has denied wrongdoing, has been in custody ever since.

Nissan, Renault to Hire Auditor to Run Alliance Probe

Ghosn was ousted as chairman of Nissan and alliance partner Mitsubishi Motors Corp. shortly after his arrest, and he resigned as chief executive officer and chairman of Renault last week. In an interview with Japan’s Nikkei newspaper published Wednesday, he said his arrest was the result of a “plot” against him by Nissan executives trying to thwart his plan to further integrate the two companies.

The allegations against Ghosn that emerged from the monthslong investigation at Nissan subsequently triggered a probe at Renault into the pay of its top executives. Nissan had pushed for the third, joint probe at RNBV, which Renault agreed to last month.

Ghosn has separately been accused of receiving improper payments from a venture of Nissan and Mitsubishi. He told Nikkei that the aim of the entity was to achieve “synergy and not for payment,” and the claims were a “distortion of reality.” Nissan, in response, said its own probe had “uncovered substantial and convincing evidence of misconduct.”

The Japanese automaker is meanwhile grappling with its own legal fallout from the scandal. Nissan has been indicted in Japan for misreporting Ghosn’s pay, and it also faces an investigation by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Nissan has said its cooperating fully with the inquiry.

On Wednesday, the Yokohama, Japan-based carmaker reported its first full-year sales slump since 2009. Auto deliveries declined 2.8 percent, adding to the challenges the company faces in the wake of the allegations. By comparison, rival Toyota Motor Corp. showed a 2 percent increase.

Nissan, Renault to Hire Auditor to Run Alliance Probe

RNBV’s board members include Renault Chief Executive Officer Thierry Bollore, Nissan CEO Hiroto Saikawa and the head of Renault’s CEO office, Mouna Sepehri.

Renault’s probe is led by Eric Le Grand, a former head of security who recently was appointed to be an ethics and compliance officer, and another Renault insider, Claude Baland, a former top civil servant. They hadn’t found issues in Ghosn’s remuneration as of their latest update.

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