In 2011, Japan was shocked by the revelation of a fraud at one of its most prominent companies, Olympus. What was more shocking was that the fraud was perpetrated by its Chairman of the Board and past president, Tsuyoshi Kikukawa, in collusion with several other Board members and officers. The whistleblower was Michael Woodford, a British citizen and the Company's first non-Japanese president and CEO. Woodford had held the post of president for just six months before he was precipitously fired at a Board of Director's meeting on October 14, 2011.
The case has been successfully used in both undergraduate and graduate courses that include intermediate financial accounting, advanced accounting, auditing, and forensic accounting. It demonstrates how poor governance structures allowed company executives and directors to circumvent accounting rules and hide investment losses for over two decades. The accounting topics include (1) methods of accounting for investments in financial instruments, (2) recognition and measurement of goodwill at the time of acquisition, and (3) consolidation accounting. The case requires students to link economic events to business decisions, and understand the financial reporting ramifications of those decisions. The case also requires students to critically analyze corporate governance mechanisms, and to consider the external auditor's responsibility for detecting and communicating financial statement fraud.