RETAIL BANKING | Staff Reporter, Japan

Japan's banking minister commits suicide

Tadahiro Matsushita, Minister of the Financial Services Agency, the banking industry regulator, committed suicide Monday.

Police investigators said Matsushita's suicide apparently had nothing to do with his job as boss of the FSA. On the other hand, media reports said it might have been triggered by the revelation of his extra-marital affair with a much younger woman that a Japanese tabloid had said it would expose today.

Others, however, said Matsushita's declining health might have been a factor in his suicide. Matsushita was successfully treated for prostate cancer this summer but has been in ill health since.

His bodyguard, who discovered the body, said the 73 year old Matsushita hanged himself at his home in Tokyo. Matsushita's staff at the FSA said the minister was due to show up for work at his office late afternoon but called to say that he would not be coming in.

Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, who appointed Matsushita to his post only this June, said he was very shocked.

“I was so shocked to hear this sad news,” Noda said. “I’m lost for words. He always cheered me up during difficult times.”

Finance Minister Jun Azumi said he will temporarily serve as financial services minister. A month after taking over the job, Matsushita asked an advisory panel at his agency to examine stiffer penalties for insider trading, including bigger fines for traders and disciplinary action against leakers of non-public information.

A recent FSA investigation into insider trading led to the resignation of Chief Executive Officer Kenichi Watanabe and Chief Operating Officer Takumi Shibata of Nomura Holdings, Inc. Both resigned in July after the FSA found that Nomura employees leaked information on share sales managed by the firm.

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