Lost Pension Assets by Japan Investment Managers Sparks Larger Probe

Japan's financial regulator halted operations of a Tokyo money-management company after finding it allegedly lost billions of dollars in client money.

In one of the biggest cases of its kind in Japan, the regulator said, investigators found that AIJ Investment Advisors Co. cannot account for “most of” the Y183 billion, or about $2.3 billion, in pension-fund assets under management, Dow Jones Newswires reports. The money belongs to a mostly still unidentified range of Japanese companies. Microchip testing equipment maker Advantest Corp. (6857.TO) and industrial robot maker Yaskawa Electric Corp. (6506.TO) confirmed they placed pension money with AIJ, the news report said.   

Financial Services Minister Shozaburo Jimi said at a news conference in the capital that the regulator, the Financial Services Agency (FSA), will now scrutinize operations at all 263 investment management firms in business in Japan as a direct result of the AIJ investigation.   

According to Dow Jones Newswires, the FSA said securities investigators have been probing 120 cases involving AIJ clients since January, but with the investigation still taking place, they couldn’t comment on details, including why the money was missing, nor the exact amount of losses found. The agency ordered the firm to suspend operations for a month. 

Phone calls to AIJ’s office in central Tokyo were automatically routed to an answering machine asking callers to try again later. Sei Takahashi, a lawyer and representative for AIJ, declined to comment on the missing funds.   

“We are not in a position to provide a detailed explanation since the SESC probe is ongoing. We are cooperating with the authorities,” he said.

FSA officials separately confirmed they are in contact with executives from the company as investigators continue their inquiry.   

A Yaskawa Electric spokesman described the company’s investments with AIJ as “very minor,” accounting for less than 2% of all its pension fund investments. In a statement, Advantest said it has about Y1.7 billion in outstanding investments deposited with AIJ, equal to about 8% of its total pension fund investments.