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Dentsu president apologises for death of Matsuri Takahashi and illegal levels of overtime

The president of Dentsu, Toshihiro Yamamoto, has admitted in court that the company allowed employees to work illegal levels of overtime.

The statement was made during a high-profile Tokyo court hearing into the work-related suicide of 24-year-old Matsuri Takahashi. Her death has been deemed by the government as ‘karoshi’ (death by overwork).

“The precious life of Matsuri Takahashi had been lost. I sincerely apologise to her and her bereaved family,” Yamamoto told a news conference after the trial, reported The Japan Times. “We failed to fulfil the social responsibility of a company.”

Takahashi had joined Dentsu in April 2015 and committed suicide nine months later, on Christmas Day 2015. According to her family lawyers, Takahashi’s workload increased significantly from October 2015, clocking 105 hours of overtime between 9 October and 7 November. A Tokyo labour department ruling concluded that she had suffered mental collapse due to the burden of overwork and ended her own life.

Speaking at another press conference following the trial on 22 September, Hiroshi Kawahito, a lawyer representing Takahashi’s mother, said: “Dentsu allowed illegally long working hours for a very long time, causing many cases of karoshi. Unlawful (working) environments will improve by having corporate responsibility judged under the criminal justice system.

“The president of Dentsu stood at today’s trial, pleading guilty, regretting and promising to never make the same mistake again. It was important that the president himself made promises at the court,” reported The Japan Times.

Following Dentsu’s initial referral to prosecutors in December last year, the company’s chief executive Tadashi Ishii announced his resignation. Ishii said at the time that he felt “deep responsibility as a person for overseeing the management of the company”.

Yamamoto, his replacement, announced his intention to “re-establish trust” within the company by tackling overwork. Before her death, Takahashi was said to be sleeping just 10 hours a week.

A ruling in the case is expected on 6 October.

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