You Ought to Know: The Man Japan Loves to Hate

Article excerpt

Hakuo Yanagisawa is a man hated by bankers.The public, too, is loath to love him. He threatens the very foundation (albeit rocky) of Japan's banking system and the livelihood of small businesses dependent on high-risk loans.Yet all would agree he's got guts.

Since his appointment in December last year as Japan's Minister of Financial Reconstruction, the 63-yearold has not ceased to amaze the financial world with his boundless energy and daring. His is a truly daunting task. Within the space of two years the commission he heads must slash Japanese banks' bad and high-risk loans and conduct a complete overhaul of the country's calcified banking system.

But Yanagisawa is acting decisively. He has pushed through harsh, new regulations. He has shut down banks and forced mergers and alliances. He has even compelled five banks to pull out of international business entirely. Most important, he has this year divvied up about Yen7.5 trillion ($64 million) in government funds for reconstruction.

But it's not all free money for the banks.Yanagisawa's handouts come with strings. …