Bank of Japan Governor Haruhiko Kuroda said Monday that he believes there was no leak to the media about the board’s debate over the negative interest rate policy during the last policy meeting from any of the participants.
Participants included BOJ board members, staff and government observers.
Kuroda told the Lower House Budget Committee that the BOJ’s investigation showed nobody from the bank contacted any member of the media until the two-day meeting ended on Jan. 29.
He also said the BOJ confirmed with representatives from the Cabinet Office and the Ministry of Finance who attended the meeting that they didn’t have any contact with reporters during the break before the chairman formally made monetary policy proposals and the board voted on them.
“We will continue to investigate the issue and release the results,” said the governor.
Shuichi Takatori, a state minister for the Cabinet Office, told the committee that participants at BOJ policy meetings are not allowed to bring in cell phones, and that government observers use dedicated telephone lines in an anteroom to communicate with ministers during the break.
Takatori and Naoki Okada, a state minister for the Ministry of Finance, attended the Jan. 29 meeting from 0900 to 1150 JST (0000 to 0250 GMT) and from 1205 to 1231 JST (0305 to 0331 GMT).
Takatori said he called the Cabinet Office after 1150 JST (0250 GMT) but denied he had any contact with media. It is unknown whether the person at the end of the line spoke to reporters during the break.
There was an alleged leak of crucial content of the meeting by an undisclosed source to the Nikkei newspaper, which reported about 10 minutes before the official policy announcement on Jan. 29 that the BOJ board was discussing whether to add negative interest rates to its bank’s easing measures.
The BOJ released the results of the meeting at 1238 JST (0338 GMT).
In 2007, there was major scandal when public broadcaster NHK reported Toshihiko Fukui, the then BOJ governor, proposed a rate hike at the bank’s Feb. 20-21 meeting that year. The board decided on a rate hike in an eight to one vote.
NHK appeared to have access to the information that Fukui was about to make the proposal and sent a news flash just before the proposal was made.
Fukui said then the report was based on speculation but both the BOJ and government came under fire from lawmakers over their lax supervision of participants at policy meetings. The BOJ has since tightened rules on the use of cell phones but it is a structural problem that allows information leakage to recur – government observers can contact their offices during the break.