A single Japanese shareholder of scandal-hit Olympus has sued 14 board members who sacked whistle-blowing British former chief executive Michael Woodford, according to lawyers.
The shareholder, an anonymous man living in western Japan, filed the lawsuit on Tuesday, demanding the executives pay Olympus 1.34 billion yen ($17.5 million) for costs resulting from Woodford's firing, one of his lawyers said.
Woodford, the first non-Japanese to lead the camera and medical equipment maker, was fired in October after revealing a cover-up of $1.7 billion in losses at the firm.
Shareholder activism is rare in Japan, where institutions tend to have cosy relationships with board members and cross-shareholdings are common.
"The lawsuit was filed by a shareholder who owns 2,310 Olympus shares," worth around 2.7 million yen at Wednesday's prices, said lawyer Naofumi Yura.
The 14 being sued were all on the board when Woodford was dismissed and include former chairman Tsuyoshi Kikukawa, who allegedly played a major role in the cover-up, he said.
The damages demanded include compensation for the firm's battered reputation and the cost of independent probes into the scheme commissioned by Olympus, he added.
"I hear other shareholders, including foreign investors, are also interested in taking legal action. They could join us theoretically," Yura said.
Olympus has admitted that it used over-priced acquisitions and consultancy fees to hide losses it had made on earlier investments, a case that has rocked global confidence in Japanese corporate governance.
In one element of the scheme, Olympus paid $687 million to a little-known financial adviser based in the Cayman Islands when it bought British medical instruments company Gyrus for $2 billion in 2008.
Olympus is already taking its own legal action against 19 current and former top executives, not including Woodford, for a combined $215 million in damages relating to the cover-up.
The company also has sued five members of an internal auditing board after one of the independent probes found they bore some of the responsibility for the scandal, demanding one billion yen in total.