"Where else would you go when you have an ax to grind?"

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Ding, Dong the Wicked Witch Pink Bunny is Dead

Well, it has finally happened - the crooked, exploitive, madhouse I spent my first four years in Japan working at has finally come crashing down.

The place has been run like a mob-owned whorehouse pretty much since day one, but karma finally caught up with them this spring when a bunch of students complained to the government that the company was not living up to its promise that they could book lesson "anytime" and that when they tried to get a refund for their prepaid lessons, the company refused to give them a full refund. The trade ministry made them offer full refunds and forbid them to sell certain types of lesson contracts for a period. Since the company - the McDonalds of the language school industry in Japan - has been trying to triple its number of school over the last couple of years and has been spending money as fast as it came in the door on a variety of ill-advised projects and company jets for the president, this basically buggered the company's cash flow. Salaries were late in July, August and September for teachers and there was no pay in October. Many of the Japanese staff haven't been paid since mid summer.

The founder has been involved in a number of very dodgy stock deals to try to drum up enough cash to keep the wheels turning and aside from a bunch of really stupid faxes, has dropped out of sight since August. As more and more teachers stopped coming to work since they weren't getting paid, it became harder for students to book lessons and more and more asked for refunds.

Not that most of them have seen a single yen in refunds yet. Nova quit paying its bills months ago. Many of the teachers rent apartments from Nova, which sublets the units from landlords. The company has been deducting the rent from teachers paycheques, but hasn't been paying the landlords and as a result several hundred teachers have been turfed out of their homes in the last two months.

Nova employees glad to be off hot seat

In the wake of Nova Corp.'s filing for court protection Friday, employees said that although they were anxious over their livelihoods, they were relieved to no longer have to cope with a barrage of complaints from students and teachers.

Nova, the nation's largest English-language school chain, applied for protection under the Corporate Rehabilitation Law with the Osaka District Court with debt of about 50 billion yen and suspended operations of all its schools.

Employees, mainly in their 20s, remained at their workplaces until the last moment, while many teachers had already stopped reporting to work over delays in salary payments. Lesson fees were also refunded to students who canceled their contracts with Nova. An employee in her 20s, who was manager of a branch in an office district in the Tokyo metropolitan area, said she began working for Nova after graduating from university as she wished to help people who wanted to learn English.

But she soon became dissatisfied with her position when she was instructed by the headquarters to try to get prospective students to sign lesson contracts.

As the number of branches increased around 2004 to 2005, more emphasis was placed on getting prospective students to sign contracts. In one case, one of the woman's colleagues was reprimanded for opposing a superior over the policy.

In June, when Nova was punished by the Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry over lesson contracts and cancellation problems, she believed that Nova would recover.

She heard that the police had to be called to another branch because a student had become angry to the point of violence, apparently over a lesson contract dispute, but the headquarters offered no assistance in the matter. "I still told myself that I should hang on as long as I was getting paid," she said.

Foreign teachers started not showing up for lessons in mid-September when their salary payments were delayed. Consequently, dozens of complaints poured in, creating chaos for the company's inexperienced receptionists. One staff member complained of not being able to afford food, while another had been reduced to tears every day before she finally collapsed and stopped coming to the office.


Stock speculators involved

OSAKA--A group of stock speculators charged by the Osaka District Public Prosecutors Office on suspicion of violating the Securities and Exchange Law, had been involved in a Nova capital expansion plan, the Yomiuri has learned.

The plan had been promoted by former Nova President Nozomu Sahashi, who was dismissed Thursday. Sahashi's financial problems may have led him to contact the group, as such groups control stock prices to gain illegal profits. Nova's court-appointed administrators stated that the move was grounds for Sahashi's dismissal.

According to sources, Sahashi had contacted the group led by Haruo Nishida, 57, an investment adviser who was arrested by the prosecutors on Oct. 12 on suspicion of manipulating the price of a construction company stock.

Nova announced on Oct. 9 it would issue stock warrants facilitating the purchase of 200 million new stocks, nearly three times the stock that had been issued, to two investment funds, with a view to securing about 6.4 billion yen. The funds are located in the Virgin Islands.

Nishida is said to have known people related to the investment funds and invited investors to Nova's plan before it was announced.

(Oct. 28, 2007)

The story above is very much the sanitized version of NOVA's flat out evil nature. Imagine the Bush administration running a chain of language schools in which people like Mike "Heckuva Job Brownie" Brown were the branch managers and Dick Cheney was in charge of the education department. Only with more evil, incompetence and general skullduggery and staffed by a lot of semi-literate Australians on working holidays.

For the real skinny on the whole sordid tale, the best "teachers gone wild" and "Freaky Student Stories" the best place to look is the forums at Lets Japan. Which is where I found all this art.