The president of Japan’s largest oil company, ENEOS Holdings, has been dismissed from his post over allegations of sexual and power harassment, in a rare case of a top executive being held accountable for misconduct in the country’s conservative corporate culture.
The company announced on Monday that Masashi Morimoto, who had been president since 2019, had resigned effective immediately, after an internal investigation found that he had violated the company’s code of conduct and ethics.
According to media reports, Morimoto had repeatedly made inappropriate remarks and gestures to female employees, and had also pressured and insulted his subordinates. He had also failed to report his overseas trips and expenses to the company, and had used his position to obtain personal benefits.
The company said that it had taken the matter seriously, and had decided to dismiss Morimoto as a “strict disciplinary measure”. It also apologized to the victims and stakeholders, and vowed to prevent any recurrence of such incidents.
The company appointed its chairman, Katsuyuki Ota, as the new president, and said that it would review its governance and compliance systems, and foster a more respectful and inclusive work environment.
The dismissal of Morimoto is a rare example of a Japanese company taking swift and decisive action against a top executive for misconduct, as Japan’s corporate culture is often seen as hierarchical, patriarchal, and tolerant of unethical behavior.
According to a survey by the Japan Institute for Women’s Empowerment and Diversity Management, only 18.5 per cent of Japanese companies have a policy to prevent sexual harassment, compared to 88.9 per cent in the US and 77.8 per cent in Europe.
The survey also found that only 9.1 per cent of Japanese companies have a system to punish sexual harassers, compared to 77.8 per cent in the US and 66.7 per cent in Europe.
Japan has also been lagging behind in promoting gender diversity and equality in the workplace, as women account for only 15.3 per cent of managerial positions, and only 5.9 per cent of board members in listed companies, according to the latest data from the Cabinet Office.
The dismissal of Morimoto could signal a shift in Japan’s corporate culture, as more companies are facing pressure from investors, regulators, and the public to improve their governance, compliance, and social responsibility, and to address the issues of harassment, discrimination, and diversity in the workplace.