The United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has opened an inquiry on Nikesh Arora’s alleged conflicts of interest and also into SoftBank disclosures to investors, reports Bloomberg. Arora stepped down as president and COO of the SoftBank Group earlier this month shortly after being given a clean chit regarding investor allegations that he was compensated by private equity firm Silver Lake for helping with potential technology company investments that were similar to the investments he made for SoftBank.
The Bloomberg report added that opening an inquiry does not necessarily mean that SoftBank and Arora would face enforcement action and that this was a preliminary action. SoftBank insisted Arora’s departure had nothing to do with the investor complaints.
Arora said that he stepped down as SoftBank chairman Masayoshi Son wanted to continue as CEO for another 5-10 years. Son had publicly said in June 2015 Arora will be the CEO of the group once he retires. Ron Fisher (a SoftBank board member) and Alok Sama (CFO of SoftBank International) would fill Arora’s role in directing overseas investments.
The other allegations
Apart from the conflict of interest allegations, SoftBank’s investors had questioned Arora’s “poor investment performance” including SoftBank’s investment in Housing.com. Housing had previously raised$90 million from Softbank in December 2014, with participation from Falcon Edge and other unnamed investors. At the time the company was valued at Rs 1,500 crore. Arora’s performance as an investor came up for scrutiny following tumultuous exit of Housing’s founder Rahul Yadav as CEO in July 2015 and subsequent restructuring in the company, Housing’s valuation has fallen to about $50 million. Housing also cut its headcount significantly after it came under new management.
Arora, however, admitted in an interview that the investment in Housing was a mistake as Yadav “did not turn out to be the founder we (SoftBank) thought he was.”