Sources with knowledge of the matter have revealed that Nissan purportedly deployed a camera surveillance system at the home of former executive Ashwani Gupta, enabling the internal security team of the automobile company to observe and monitor his activities.
The installation of the surveillance system was revealed during an ongoing investigation into claims that Chief Executive Makoto Uchida engaged in surveillance activities to gather leverage for Gupta’s removal from the company.
The investigation was prompted by Gupta’s opposition to certain terms in a new partnership agreement with Renault (RENA.PA), as reported over the weekend.
During a board meeting at Nissan’s Yokohama headquarters on June 20, the company’s directors were briefed on the preliminary findings of the investigation by the U.S. law firm Davis Polk & Wardwell, the sources revealed.
The initial report indicated that two sets of security cameras were installed at the entrance of Gupta’s house in Tokyo’s Shibuya ward.
One system was intended for use by a private security firm, while the other allowed Nissan’s internal security team to monitor Gupta.
The report did not specify whether the use of cameras by Nissan to monitor Gupta was deemed illegal or whether Gupta was informed about the surveillance.
The exact timing of the camera installation and the identity of the private security company could not be ascertained from the available sources. Both Uchida and Gupta were absent from the board meeting, and a final report on the investigation is expected to be released in July, as requested by Nissan’s independent directors.
Nissan chose not to provide any comments regarding the ongoing investigations and did not make its executives available for statements. Similarly, Davis Polk & Wardwell refrained from offering any remarks on the subject.
Under Japanese law, companies are permitted to monitor communication on corporate devices and investigate employees’ conduct outside of work to protect their business interests, according to Akira Takeuchi, a lawyer and certified fraud examiner in Tokyo.
Nevertheless, the initial findings presented during the board meeting did not arrive at a definitive conclusion regarding the assertion made by senior advisor Hari Nada concerning Uchida’s alleged involvement in the surveillance operations.
Nissan made a recent announcement stating that Ashwani Gupta, aged 52, would depart from the company on June 27, which coincides with the automaker’s annual shareholder meeting. Gupta’s departure is attributed to his pursuit of other career opportunities.
It is worth noting that in May, Nissan had already disclosed its decision not to reappoint Gupta, who had been serving as the chief operating officer since 2019, to the board. Gupta was widely regarded as a potential successor to Uchida.
The allegations about Gupta’s conduct were brought to light in a letter by Hari Nada in April, stating that Nissan had investigated claims of harassment against Gupta by a female employee.
Nada’s letter also requested an international law firm to conduct an investigation into Gupta’s surveillance and the circumstances surrounding the probe into his conduct, including potential predetermined outcomes and Uchida’s involvement.
According to sources, Davis Polk & Wardwell’s report to the board raised concerns about the arbitrary use of investigative authority by Nissan’s audit committee in handling the complaint against Gupta. Another report presented by Japanese law firm Iwata Godo addressed the question of whether the audit committee’s actions were lawful, stating that there was no evidence of illegal conduct by the committee or its head, Motoo Nagai.
Similar to Uchida, Nagai was also exempted from attending the meeting where the discussions regarding the surveillance and harassment allegations took place.
Both law firms declined to comment on the matter, and it remains unclear whether they made any findings regarding the harassment claim itself, apart from the handling of the investigation.
Nada mentioned in his letter that Japanese law firm Anderson Mori & Tomotsune had conducted an inquiry into the harassment allegation, but the firm has chosen not to comment.