Dentsu Global CEO Tadashi Ishii to Resign Next Month Amid ‘Overwork’ Suicide Controversy

By Erik Oster 

Dentsu president and global CEO Tadashi Ishii announced at a press conference yesterday that he will offer his resignation at a board meeting next month after holding the position for five years, Adweek reported.

The announcement follows multiple outlets in Japan, including the Japan Times, reporting that the Japanese labor ministry had referred Dentsu and one of its executives to federal prosecutors, recommending unspecified charges related to the suicide of Dentsu employee Matsuri Takahashi on December 25, 2015. This follows a raid of several Dentsu offices by Japanese authorities last month, part of an ongoing investigation. Dentsu had instituted a “Working Environment Reforms Commission” shortly preceding the raid.

“Today a case against Dentsu Inc. and one of its employees in Japan has been referred to the prosecutors office for alleged violations of the Labor Standards Act,” Dentsu wrote in a statement released yesterday on its website. “We take this situation very seriously. We sincerely apologize to all concerned parties for causing this situation. We are now committed to use our utmost efforts to make actual improvements to the working environment and to effectively eradicate long working hours at our company.”

The death of the 24-year-old Takahashi was attributed to “karoshi,” a Japanese term for “death from overwork.” According to labor authorities’ investigation, Takahashi was putting in over 100 hours of overtime per month in the months leading up to her death, much of it unpaid and unreported. The New York Times quotes tweets from Takahashi responding to such stresses, including “They’re making me work Saturdays and Sundays again. I seriously want to end it all,” and “It’s 4 a.m. My body’s trembling. I’m going to die. I’m so tired.”

“I feel deep responsibility as a person overseeing management of the company,” Ishii said in the press conference, according to the Japan Times. “I will take full responsibility and will step down at a board meeting in January.”

While he will tender his resignation in the meeting next month, he will remain with Dentsu until March, the end of his current term.

In 2000, Dentsu admitted to fault in the 1991 suicide of an employee which was also attributed to stress from overworking. Despite that case, The New York Times cites multiple Japanese outlets as reporting that a quote from a Dentsu president in the 1950s calling on employees to work hard to satisfy clients “even if it kills you” remained in company training materials until shortly after Takashai’s death, when it was finally removed.

According to The New York Times, Takahashi tweeted about receiving harassment from her supervisors, in addition to being overworked. She claimed on Twitter (and reportedly also told her family) that her she was criticized for coming to work with “messy hair and bloodshot eyes” and having “no femininity.”

[Pic via Getty Images]