Top shareholders in Olympus are calling for an investigation into the controversial payments to advisory firms which emerged after Friday's sacking of Michael Woodford, Olympus CEO.

Shares in the company have been falling rapidly ever since Friday's ousting of Woodford, who had only been in the job for two weeks.

Olympus claimed that Woodford had been fired after a "culture clash", but he told a different story to several media organisations, saying an internal investigation into the company had uncovered some unusual transactions.

Since then, Woodford has delivered papers to the Serious Fraud Office in London and has called upon Japan's Securities and Exchange Surveillance Commission (SESC) to look into the matter.

Losing close to half its market value in just a few short days, speculation has since emerged that it could be a potential target for take over.

Nippon Life Insurance Co, the largest shareholder in Olympus, with an 8.2% stake has called for prompt action from the company to ease fears from investors.

Akira Tsuzuki, a spokesperson for Nippon said, "We have urged Olympus to quickly provide information in order to remove concerns."

Meanwhile, a spokesman for Nikko Asset Management Co Lid, which holds 1.05 million shares, said, "When there is a situation that has a large impact on a firm's value, that is exactly the time when a company should provide prompt and transparent disclosure and top-quality investor relations."

Advisory fees

Olympus admitted that it had spent a large fee on advisors as part of a takeover in 2008, but failed to say who they were, claiming it no longer knew of the whereabouts of the company. Woodford claims that the advisory firms are New York based AXES America LLC and Axam Investments Ltd, based in the Cayman Islands.

Woodford, who had been working at Olympus for 30 years and is British, is staying away from Japan over concerns his personal safety could be at risk, according to a letter he sent to the Olympus chairman.

Olympus shareholders have been urged by Woodford to demand the removal of the board and ask for a detailed examination of the company's acquisitions over the past decade.

Japanese ratings agency R&I said that it had put Olympus's credit rating on watch for a possible downgrade over the debacle.

Investigations by the Serious Fraud Office and SESC could take months to finalise, but keep watching for more on this story as it emerges.

Via Reuters