Nissan is investigating allegations that CEO Makoto Uchida conducted surveillance on Ashwani Gupta, the automaker’s departing Chief Operating Officer. According to Hari Nada, a senior adviser for Nissan, the surveillance was an attempt to gain leverage and remove Gupta, who Uchida perceived as an obstacle to reaching a new agreement with Renault.
The surveillance claims, first reported by the Financial Times, were made by Nada in a letter dated April 19 to the independent directors on the Japanese automaker’s board. According to Reuters, which also obtained a copy of the letter, Nada says Uchida conducted surveillance against Gupta over an unspecified “long period of time.” The letter also relates information regarding a split between Nissan’s senior management over the relationship with Renault and concerns about intellectual property transfers.
Gupta, who was appointed COO of Nissan in 2019, had questioned the terms of the revised agreement with Renault. He was placed under surveillance by Uchida, who is seeking to finalize the agreement. Uchida allegedly wanted to find information that could be used as leverage to oust Gupta, who announced his departure earlier this month. Previously, Gupta played a major role in Nissan’s turnaround plan, which aimed to streamline operations, and had been seen as a frontrunner for the position of CEO.
Asked to comment on the surveillance investigation, a spokesperson for Nissan responded, “Independent third parties have been retained to verify facts and carry out appropriate actions.” Nissan did not confirm or deny the surveillance allegations or specify who was conducting the investigation. It also declined to comment further on this story.
Ashwani Gupta’s departure from Nissan raises questions about the company’s future leadership and its alliance with Renault. The allegations of surveillance and internal disagreements further add to concerns regarding instability within the company. Nissan plans to provide details on its leadership changes in an upcoming announcement which will indicate the direction it intends to take going forward.
This scandal follows a tumultuous period in Nissan’s history involving its previous CEO Carlos Ghosn, who was accused of hiding income in addition to other financial charges five years ago. Ghosn was placed under house arrest in Japan but later fled to Lebanon with assistance from a private security firm by hiding in an instrument box. Interpol currently has a red notice out for his arrest.