The Japanese business world lit abuzz yesterday as it was announced that the former head Livedoor, Takafumi Horie, had his appeal rejected by the Japanese Supreme Court, thereby finalizing his conviction for accounting fraud issued 4 years ago. Takafumi Horie, or Horiemon as he is popularly known for his resemblance to the manga character Doraemon, was involved in a securities fraud and money laundering investigation in 2006 that sent Livedoor stock into an unprecedented tailspin. He was later arrested by Tokyo public prosecutors, for falsely reporting 5 billion yen ($43 million) in pre-tax income in 2004 to hide real losses of 310 million yen. When four Livedoor executives admitted guilt and became prosecution witnesses, the case centered around the extent to which Horiemon was complicit with the executives as well as his awareness of the accounting fraud that was taking place. In 2007 he was handed his 2.5 year prison sentence for “overseeing a network of decoy investment funds established for the purpose of evading the law” and to “manipulate Livedoor’s accounting” but was later released on a 300 million yen bail.
As opposed to many public Japanese business scandals, usually involving the tearful admittance of guilt by executives, Horiemon retained his innocence throughout the prosecution. Further, the Horiemon drama is of immense interest to the public. Horiemon became known for his unconventional entrepreneurship and vocal criticisms of the Japanese business environment and system as he rose to fame in 2004-2005. He has gained respect and the following of many younger Japanese people who could relate to his different style of business.
Since his bail in 2007, Horiemon has maintained a very high public profile not only through his incredible social media following but by authoring his new book “Horiemon’s Cosmology“, which was just recently published, as well as his popular Ameblo blog. After his appeal was rejected, Horiemon tweeted “Rejected….” to his 694,000 Twitter followers he had gained over the past years. It was no wonder that when his prison fate had been publicly announced, trending topics related to Horiemon topped Japan’s recently added trending lists.
It can be expected Horiemon will remain a point of immense public fascination who despite his conviction still remains one of the few symbols of rebellion against a stagnant, stringent business culture.