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Japanese Firms Have Given U.S. Offices More Freedom Than One Might Expect

July 31, 1988

We were dismayed at both the tone and some of the conclusions drawn by staff writer Jim Schachter in his July 10 article, "When Hope Turns to Frustration--The Americanization of Mitsubishi Has Had Little Success."

If Schachter's preparation for writing an article on Americanization at our firm had included more consultation with management along the way, he would, we feel, have gained a more accurate perspective on the company's long-standing efforts to Americanize. MIC's board includes three Americans who have always had full management status--not the "second-class" status Schachter's article ascribes to such members.

Ironically, just three days after Schachter's article appeared, the board elected one of our American staff as a senior vice president, and nine American staff now hold the office of vice president. To us, this is clear evidence of our ongoing, concerted efforts to enhance and accelerate the further integration of Americans into upper management at MIC.

Schachter also reported that "some Japanese have shown little interest in nurturing Americans in the trading skills they'd need to take over key jobs." Although this may be true in isolated instances, such a statement does not reflect management's commitments. Since 1980, for instance, we have been sending top American performers to the parent company to broaden their skills. We sponsor in-house training programs at all levels.

This year locally hired staff from Mitsubishi Corp.'s offices in several parts of the world will be, for the first time, participating in our management development training seminar. Given the record, a more accurate statement would have been, we think, that MIC's Japanese and American managers often encourage their staff to acquire more product, trading and management knowledge, and that our career path development program provides a way to reward our employees for their diligence.

We also take issue with the article's assertion that MIC contract employees have "presumably, little company loyalty." Schachter fails to report--presumably an oversight--that the service record of our contract employees, most of whom have been trusted employees for a number of years, does not support his conclusions.

He further states that we use "short-term contracts" as an alternative to investing in the training and development of young American traders. In reality, we often find that as we target a new product area for development, the expertise we need does not exist in house.

When a timely response to a business opportunity forces us to move quickly to find that expertise, we sometimes look outside the company and hire appropriate personnel on a contractual basis. We are certainly aware of, and attentive to, internal controversy at MIC on this subject, but we do not consider that it exists in the proportions implied by Schachter's handling of the subject.

Our dismay at the printed results of Schachter's research is all the greater because we welcomed his interest in the Americanizing of MIC, a subject to which the company has made an abiding commitment. The picture he has painted based on our employees' candid opinions is, however, not balanced and lacks a clear perspective. I hope, therefore, that this letter sets the record straight, thereby allowing your readers to gain a more objective view of an important issue of the day.

MINORU MAKIHARA

New York

The writer is president of Mitsubishi International Corp.

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