Nissan has had stumbles recently. In October 2017, the company suspended production at all of its Japanese factories after discovering that uncertified technicians had conducted vehicle inspections. In July, the company admitted to falsifying emissions and fuel economy tests.
The misconduct allegations about Mr. Ghosn are of another order, analysts said.
“For Nissan, Mr. Ghosn is a big hero,” said Shin Ushijima, a lawyer who specializes in corporate governance. “This news is so embarrassing.”
At a news conference with the Belgian prime minister on Monday, President Emmanuel Macron of France said it was too early to comment. But the French state, as a major Renault shareholder, would be “extremely vigilant about the stability of the alliance” between Renault and Nissan, he said.
Mr. Macron added that the French government would seek to maintain stability and “full support” for Renault’s workers. The company employs more than 47,000 workers in France.
Mr. Ghosn’s pay was long debated there. In 2016, Renault was pressured by Mr. Macron, the finance minister at the time, to reduce his compensation. In 2017, he insisted on a package of 7.4 million euros, about $8.5 million. The French government balked but Renault shareholders ultimately approved that payout.
In Japan, Mr. Ghosn’s compensation made him an outlier. Japanese executives typically earn far less than their American or European counterparts. Takeshi Uchiyamada, chairman of Toyota, for example, was paid ¥181 million in 2017, compared to Mr. Ghosn’s reported ¥735 million.
Foreign investors tend to criticize Japanese companies as not paying executives enough. “For the Japanese market, the main concern from foreign institutional investors is the question of whether compensation will be less incentive driven,” said Hideaki Miyajima, professor of commerce at Waseda University in Tokyo. “The criticism of Japanese firms is that compensation is not related to performance, and Japanese leaders are less likely to take risks.”