whereby if you're poor and can't post bail, you rot in
jail for a parking ticket.
And if you grope a subordinate, Toyota settles for an
James B. Treece
Lessons for Americans from Hamp's case
My colleague, Philip Nussel, in a blog posted Thursday, draws parallels between the tale of Julie Hamp’s run-in with Japanese law and the price-fixing scandal that has embroiled a number of Japanese auto suppliers.
I’d like to offer a seemingly more far-fetched comparison: to the 2006 case where Toyota’s top-ranking Japanese executive in the U.S. was accused of sexual harassment.
You may recall the salacious details that led to the New York Post’s screaming headline: “OH, WHAT A FEELING! Toyota boss groped me.”
Toyota Motor North America Inc. CEO Hideaki Otaka, then 65, was accused of groping, harassing and relentlessly pursuing Toyota employee Sayaka Kobayashi, then 42, from August 2005 to January 2006. Kobayashi, who filed a sexual harassment suit seeking $190 million, also said the company ignored her complaints.
In August 2006, Toyota settled for an undisclosed sum. Kobayashi left the company. Otaka moved to a position at a Toyota affiliate.
How is the Hamp case similar to the Otaka one?
In both cases, a foreign national was caught violating laws that are often flouted at home.
Sexual harassment was officially illegal in Japan at the time, but those laws were all too often ignored. In fact, occasional cases of sexual harassment in Japan had produced a bevy of seku-hara bars where male patrons could indulge in role playing with bar girls, acting out behaviors that their newly revised corporate codes said should no longer be allowed.
So the conventional wisdom at the time was that Otaka just didn’t understand how seriously America treated any hint of sexual harassment. The self-righteous American press implied that all Japanese male executives were sexist bosses.
Today, part of the conventional wisdom is that Hamp just didn’t understand how seriously Japan treated any hint of illegal drugs. The self-righteous Japanese press has implied that promoting foreign executives at Japanese companies is inherently fraught with risks.
Drugs and America
Hamp tripped up over Japan’s extremely unbending rules on drugs. Whether or not she had a prescription for a valid medical use didn’t matter; the oxycodone sent to her didn’t go through the proper channels.
I’m not going to opine on Hamp and her oxycodone. I don’t know the details.
But I do know that America, including Corporate America, has a drug problem. It’s in our cities, on our farms (where heroin use is surging), and yes, in our boardrooms. White senior executives abuse substances, whether alcohol or opiates, more than we care to admit.
And all too often, we look the other way.
Is that really all that different from Japanese colleagues looking the other way when a senior male manager harassed a female subordinate?
James B. Treece was Automotive News’ Tokyo-based Asia editor from 1995 to 2007.