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NTT slashes top execs’ pay as punishment for paying more than their share of $500-a-head meals with government officials

None were illegal, but they did put civil servants in awkward ethical territory and execs knew it

Japanese tech and telecoms giant NTT has temporarily slashed the pay of several top executives, to reprimand them for paying too much of the bill at $500-a-head lunches with government officials.

NTT is part-owned by Japan’s government and is also the nation’s dominant telco. Meetings with officials from the Ministry of Communications are therefore to be expected.

Local ethics rules don’t prohibit government officials dining with those they regulate. But NTT made the mistake of taking officials to very expensive restaurants — Japanese media report the bill reached the equivalent of over $500 per person on some occasions — and then paying most of the bill.

The naughty noshing occurred on 29 occasions between 2016 and 2021. The most recent meals came after recently appointed Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga signalled his intention to shake up regulations that make it very hard to port mobile numbers between carriers in Japan. News that NTT had been generous to public officials therefore aroused suspicions that the carrier may have been attempting to curry favour over some delicious Japanese curry*.

Japan’s Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications was widely criticised when news of the lavish meals became known.

NTT opened an internal inquiry into the matter, and its subsequent report was published this week. It found that, while the meals were not illegal, they induced public servants to breach their code of ethics and NTT execs should have known better than to do so.

Sanctions were therefore in order. NTT President Jun Sawada has had his pay cut by forty per cent for three months, while Senior Executive Vice President Akira Shimada and Senior Vice President Ryota Kitamura will both find their pay packets 20 per cent lighter for three months.

Toshio Iwamoto, an advisor at NTT’s IT services arm NTT Data Corporation, has been handed a thirty per cent pay cut for three months.

A dozen other employees from several NTT businesses were given a severe reprimand.

Investigations have subsequently found that no decisions made by Ministry officials were compromised by NTT’s generosity. ®

* The Register has no knowledge of the menu at the meals but couldn’t resist some linguistic whimsy — Ed.

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