Japanese star fund manager spared jail
Tue, Feb 03, 2009

TOKYO - A FORMER star fund manager convicted of insider trading involving the scandal-hit Livedoor Internet company avoided jail time on Tuesday when a Japanese court suspended his two-year prison sentence.

The Tokyo High Court upheld a fine of 1.15 billion yen (S$19.4 million) imposed on Yoshiaki Murakami by a district court in July 2007, but overturned its sentence of two years in jail without suspension, a court official said.

Murakami had been free on bail pending the ruling.

The 49-year-old former trade ministry bureaucrat turned activist investor led Japan's first hostile takeover bid. A self-proclaimed corporate raider and champion of investor rights, he became the nation's best known fund manager.

He was arrested for buying shares in a broadcaster knowing Livedoor founder Takafumi Horie would try to buy a large stake in the company.

Murakami protested his innocence during the trial.

At the time, his harsh sentence was seen as reflecting a crackdown on the free-wheeling capitalism pioneered by him and Horie, who was sentenced to two and a half years in prison in 2007 in a separate fraud case.

Murakami founded investment firm M and A Consulting Inc in 1999 and shook up Japan Inc with his demands for greater shareholder rights.

He targeted cash-rich but underperforming companies and became a vocal advocate of better corporate governance, drawing the ire of executives in a country where hedge funds are still viewed by many as corporate vultures.

The scandal even touched then Bank of Japan governor Toshihiko Fukui, who faced calls to resign after admitting to investing in Murakami's fund.

Mr Fukui kept his job after offering to donate the money to charity. -- AFP

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