Public Comment to METI’s Fair Acquisition Study Group

As an individual and not representing any organization, I submitted the public comment attached below to METI’s Fair Acquisition Study Group.
Nicholas Benes – Public Comment to the METI Fair Acquisition Study Group-03.15.2023

My conclusion:

” Instead, I believe that the study group should seriously consider proposing that Japan adopt the UK model for takeovers and similar transfers of control or substantial influence, and the UK’s rules for collective engagement. These rules fit much better with Japan’s systemic and corporate governance realities. Were this to be done, the following policies should be implemented:

How smaller companies can help the world get to net zero faster

By Helle Bank Jorgensen, CEO of Competent Boards
In the business world, the titans grab the headlines and dominate people’s thinking. Walmart, Amazon, Ikea, Unilever, Nike, Microsoft and Samsung are just some of the international giants that bestride the corporate world.

However, like a large iceberg, what goes on beneath the surface could be more important. These large corporations cannot act in isolation: their supply chains are full of and depend on the work of small- or medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). And according to the World Bank’s data, these SMEs more than pull their weight in the global economy, comprising:
90% of worldwide businesses
More than 50% of employment worldwide
Up to 40% of GDP in emerging economies
Seven out of every 10 new jobs in emerging economies

In reality, the cogs of business work well by being interconnected and interdependent. As such, SMEs have a huge — but currently understated and undervalued — role to play in the collective corporate effort to address the climate crisis and achieve net zero emissions by 2050 or sooner. It is time to turn the spotlight on the opportunities and
benefits these smaller and medium-sized businesses — and the world at large — would gain from taking meaningful climate action sooner rather than later.

Barriers to change
The links in supply chains are easy to spot. For example, a small company with vehicles for transporting its products will have Scope 1 emissions from those direct operations. However, those same emissions could form part of a much larger company’s Scope 3 emissions from indirect activity. So a simple environmental improvement by a small- or
medium-sized company, such as switching its vehicles to electric power or green hydrogen, could benefit the value chain.

BDTI Year-End Donation Campaign and Update

We would greatly appreciate it if you could possibly donate to BDTI, and even if not, forward this link to any and all.  Thank you for your support !
Friends, Supporters, and Compatriots Overseas , — As the end of the year approaches, we at The Board Director Training Institute of Japan want to recognize all of the people who have helped us fulfill our dream of adequately training directors in Japan. Our small organization and its passionate team have endured for 13 years, and have managed to have an outsized impact. For a full list of our recent activities, I hope you’ll read the update below of our recent activities and milestones, to see just how much of an impact your contributions can have, and for many of you, did have.
Every donation provides much-needed fuel for our many courses, seminars, webinars, and outreach activities in support of better corporate governance in Japan, where the market-clearing price for director training is still very low.  As you consider your tax position at the end of 2022, we humbly ask if you would be willing to contribute whatever you can to help us continue this amazing journey and the successes we’ve had.

Letter to Prime Minister Fumio Kishida from Nicholas Benes on New Capitalism

September 2, 2022

Nicholas Edward Benes
(Writing as an individual. Please see below.)
Setagaya-ku, Tokyo
(Please feel free to email me to receive a PDF copy of this letter.) 

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida
Prime Minister’s Residence
2-chōme-3-1 Nagatachō
Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 100-0014

Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Seiji Kihara
Mr. Masahiko Shibayama, Deputy Chairperson, Election Strategy Committee of the LDP
Hon. Prime Minister,

I am writing this letter with the respect that is due you as the foremost leader of this country, who has set forth a concept for “a new form of capitalism.” If I may, I would like to share my concrete thoughts on how further improving corporate governance in Japan can be a positive game-changer for Japan’s economy, society, and financial markets.

When I saw your moving speech to the NPT Review Conference, I was impressed how fluently you read English. Therefore, I am taking the liberty to write this letter in English, attaching a Japanese translation. As the person who suggested to the US government that President Obama visit Hiroshima, I was pleased with your passionate comments.

BDTI Seeks Dialogue with Large Japanese Institutional Investors

On July 27th, BDTI sent this letter to senior persons at Japan’s largest asset managers, asking for a dialogue and cooperation to improve Japanese boards via training, engagement, and data. Right now, we have fruitful dialogues with the many foreign institutional investors who are the source of 99% of donations to BDTI, or purchase our data, but very few dialogues with Japanese large investors. They could probably benefit from what we have learned providing director training to 2,500 persons over the past 11 years, and from what my colleagues and I have learned serving as independent directors for many years…. given that most fund managers have never sat on a board. We sent out letters like this last year, but received no responses. We will let you know what the result is this year; what kind of firms responded (if any) vs. not. (Note: the letter below is a translation from the original Japanese. )

Mr. /Ms. XXXX
XXX Corporation

Dear ______________,

I am Nicholas Benes, Representative Director of the Board of Directors Training Institute (BDTI).

Since its establishment in 2009, BDTI has provided director and pre-director training, and has analyzed data on the status of corporate governance at listed companies, with the aim of improving governance in Japan.

Today, I would like to ask for your help in improving the quality of boards in Japan. This is something which will lead to the greater attractiveness of the Japanese stock market, which is the source of your firm’s profits. I have contacted you because I believe that we are both striving towards this common goal.

My Letter to Mark Facebook at Facebook/Meta

The Board Director Training Institute of Japan has sent the letter set forth below to the Mark Zuckerberg,m CEO of Meta Plataforms, Inc. (Facebook), asking FB to make it possible for Japanese users  to donate to certified non-profits in Japan, rather than just the US, Germany, Denmark and many other countries that are listed in the current drop-down menu.  It would be very easy for Facebook to implement this change, because their drop-down menu for donations is linked to each country’s list of certified non-profits, and Japan’s cabinet office also furnishes a convenient web page (a “registry”) for purposes such as this.  It doesn’t make sense for Japanese users (say on their friend’s birthday) to be limited to donating on that friend’s behalf to a nonprofit in Luxembourg or Denmark or the U.S. (This is not to deny anything to charities in those countries, but rather, to state the obvious.)   We have also sought to contact persons in Facebook Japan’s office about this, but have not yet received any answer as of this writing (August 15, 2022).

=============================         July 27, 2022

Mr. Mark Zuckerberg
Meta/ Facebook
1 Hacker Way
Menlo Park, California
94025    USA

CC: copies also sent to
Director of Communications
Director of Fundraising Activities Team
Board of Director members via Corporate Secretary

Dear Mr. Zuckerberg,

The Board Director Training Institute of Japan (BDTI), which I lead from here in Tokyo, is a “public interest” nonprofit certified as such by the Japanese government. We provide: 1) training about directorship and corporate governance in Japan; 2) analysis and information dissemination about corporate governance; and 3) structured long-term big data taken from three separate types of disclosure reports in Japan. These are our major activities as approved by Japan’s Cabinet Office.

Mitsuboshi Case Leaves Poison Pill Doctrine Unresolved

Law on takeover defenses in Japan is unclear
by Stephen Givens

In a significant precedent that adds a missing piece or two to Japan’s wobbly and shifting poison pill doctrine, in late July the Supreme Court upheld decisions by the Osaka District Court and Osaka High Court that invalidated a poison pill hastily set up by target Mitsuboshi Corporation (TYO 5820) to fight off an investor group with shadowy China ties that had amassed a more than 20% stake quietly in the open market.

A Gloss on Last Year’s Tokyo Kikai Seisakusho Case

The facts in the Mitsuboshi decision are in many ways similar to those of the Tokyo Kikai Seisakusho (TKS) (TYO 6335) poison pill case decided in November 2021. In both cases investors with China ties quietly acquired a sizable stake in a small, obscure target that lacked a pre-existing poison pill.

In TKS, these facts proved an embarrassment to recent judicial iterations on the poison pill, which seemed to make shareholder ratification of a poison pill both a necessary and sufficient condition for validation. [See footnote #1.]  Applying the still-fresh shareholder ratification principle would have allowed Asia Development Corporation (ADC), the Chinese-controlled company that had already acquired 40% of TKS,

Governance Screening Tool for ALL Companies in Japan – Just ONE of GoToData Dashboard’s Features!

GoToData Dashboard’s screening tool shows us that only 75% (1464) of all TSE1 firms have nom + com committees, but only 842 of them are chaired by outside directors. At only 51 of those firms does an outside director serve as chair of the board, and 44 firms in that group have at least one female board member. Below, read more of the interesting results from this demonstration of the screening tool.

The General Counsel as Board Member – Advice from Larry Bates, Former General Counsel at Panasonic, Lixil, and GE Japan


In Japan, traditionally there was no role of “General Counsel” (GC), the senior in-house counsel/lawyer, who sometimes sits on the board. Instead, until recently the standard model was that companies had a “Legal Department” led by a general manager who normally was not a licensed lawyer, and therefore had less to “lose” if he failed to give proper advice or transgressed ethical and other rules set by the Bar Association. However, as Japanese companies have expanded and globalized, more of them are realizing that it is essential to have an actual licensed attorney serve as the “Chief Legal Officer” (CLO), serving a broader, more senior, and influential role.

In this webinar, BDTI’s Nicholas Benes will interview the well-known Larry Bates, who recently stepped down from his role as Panasonic’s first General Counsel and will retire as a director in June of this year. During the past 30 years, Larry has served as General Counsel for 30 years at five different companies, all of which operated in a global legal context. To provide actionable advice and perspectives to Japanese companies, the interview will focus on key issues such as: (a) what should be the GC’s role and mission, and how does the concept of “GC” differ from the traditional Japanese model? (b) should that role include “corporate secretary” duties, or should the two roles be kept separate? (c) what other functions does it overlap with, and how should the GC relate to them? (d) what are the pros and cons of having the GC sit on the board? What is his or her relationship with the board and other executives? (e) what legal or compliance matters do Japanese companies need to pay more attention to? (f) what is it like to participate in board decision-making itself, not only as GC but also as a foreigner, on a Japanese board? What can be done by Japanese companies to benefit more from diversity? – to name just a few.

After the interview, there will be a panel discussion including other experienced legal advisors and independent directors at global companies. We will be joined by Chika Hirata, currently Regional Head of Ethics and Compliance at Takeda, and the former CLO and Corporate Secretary at MetLife Japan; and by Yumiko Ito of Ito Law Office, who also serves as an independent director for Kobe Steel, Ltd. and as an independent corporate auditor for Santen Pharmaceutical, Co., Ltd.

This event will be held in English.

How to Revive Japan’s Economy

To Those Who Agree with BDTI’s Mission to Improve Governance In Japan

The Board Director Training Institute of Japan (BDTI) is the most influential provider of director training and data on corporate governance in Japan. I am pleased to share this report on the growth of our activities during FY2021 (please click). Notably, more than 32% of our participants in non-corporate programs were women.

While our training activity has increased, we are still dependent on donations from foreign investors for our survival so that we may continue to make an outsized impact in improving corporate governance in Japan. For the past few years, I have reduced my own salary to a minimal level to make this possible. (In fact, over the past 12 years, after subtracting my own donations to BDTI, I have literally worked for zero compensation.)

BDTI is regulated by the Japanese government. I intentionally created BDTI in 2009 as a non-profit and later obtained special government certification that its director training activities serve the “public interest”, to create the most eminently “supportable” platform for spreading governance best practices and the custom of director training in Japan. Especially after I proposed the Corporate Governance Code to the government in 2013 (which requires director training), I believed that this format would make it easy for Japanese institutional investors to support our activities, in view of their responsibilities under the Stewardship Code and their proclaimed dedication to ESG and sustainability. After all, the quality of “G” (the board) is the pillar that ensures whether “E” and “S” will create value for shareholders, stakeholders, and society over the long term, rather than simply as reactive PR.

However, during the past 12 years, not a single large Japanese investing institution has supported BDTI or cooperated with our activities in any way, despite many meetings. Instead, 99% of BDTI’s donations have come from foreign asset managers and institutions, including some of the most respected investing organizations in the world.