TOKYO – The United States Securities and Exchange Commission is investigating Nissan Motor Co. in connection with former Chairman Carlos Ghosn’s pay disclosures, requesting documents from both the car maker and Ghosn, according to people familiar with the matter.
Nissan said on Monday it received an inquiry from the SEC and was cooperating with the financial regulator, but declined to provide further information.
Nissan and Ghosn have been charged in Japan with underreporting his compensation by more than $80 million on eight years of the company’s financial reports.
Ghosn says he is innocent of the charges by Tokyo prosecutors. He says he kept a record at Nissan of how much he thought he was worth, but it was hypothetical and did not bind Nissan to pay him anything beyond his publicly reported compensation.
Nissan has expressed regret over the potential impact to shareholders, but has not said whether it will contest the charges.
The investigation by the SEC appears to be at an early stage and has not extended beyond a request for information, one of the people said.
It could not be determined whether the SEC will open a broader investigation.
The regulator has broad authority to police the sale of securities in the US, potentially exposing both Ghosn and Nissan to penalties.
Nissan shares do not trade on a US stock exchange, but it does issue a form of American depositary receipts through a US bank, which allow investors in the US essentially to own Nissan shares in US dollars.
Ghosn was arrested on Nov. 19 following a secret investigation within Nissan. He has been denied bail thus far, and remains in jail until at least March 10, when a judge is scheduled to review his detention.
People familiar with Nissan’s internal investigation have said Ghosn sought to lower the amount of his compensation that was publicly disclosed and planned to collect the undisclosed money after retirement.
Nissan Chief Executive Hiroto Saikawa has said Ghosn was “too powerful,” allowing him to circumvent oversight of his actions.
Nissan and Tokyo prosecutors believe that those future payments should have been disclosed in the company’s financial statements.
Ghosn has said any discussions about future payments were preliminary and would need board approval to become binding.