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Ex-BOJ chief Matsushita dies at 92

Yasuo Matsushita (Mainichi)

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Former Bank of Japan Governor Yasuo Matsushita, who led the central bank during the Japanese financial crisis of the 1990s, has died, his family said Tuesday. He was 92.

The date and cause of death were not immediately clear. He was known for cutting interest rates to historic lows in an attempt to aid recovery from the collapse of the asset-inflated bubble economy in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Born in Kobe, Hyogo Prefecture, on New Year's Day in 1926, Matsushita studied law at the University of Tokyo before beginning his professional career at the Ministry of Finance at age 24.

He remained there for more than three decades, moving up the ranks to eventually become vice finance minister, the top bureaucratic position.

Giving up public service, Matsushita then joined Taiyo-Kobe Bank in 1986 and was made president the following year. When Taiyo-Kobe Bank merged with Mitsui Bank in 1990 to later become Sakura Bank, he took the post of chairman.

In 1994, he was appointed by Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama to become the 27th governor of the BOJ, replacing the outgoing Yasushi Mieno.

In an attempt to curb yen appreciation that was hurting Japanese exporters, in September 1995 Matsushita lowered the central bank's official discount rate to a record-low 0.5 percent.

Over his tenure, Matsushita headed the BOJ's response to a financial crisis that saw the collapses of brokerage Yamaichi Securities Co. and the Hokkaido Takushoku Bank.

But he resigned in 1998 before the end of his term to take responsibility for a bribery scandal involving one of his subordinates.

He was the last governor before a legal revision gave the BOJ greater independence from the government to make policy decisions, shaping the central bank into its current form.

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