Sokaiya — The Ultimate Troll

The Yakuza, the most prominent organized crime group in Japan, use a racketeering practice called sokaiya to extort Japanese companies. In Japan, people view shame as the worst possible outcome, sometimes even worse than death. The yakuza prey on this by purchasing the minimum number of shares in a company to be invited to its annual shareholder’s meeting. They then threaten the company’s executive that the Yakuza will come to the meeting and essentially troll them, asking very detailed and pointed questions about small mistakes the company made or making fun of the executives’ wives or mistresses. Unless the company will pay them off (often by purchasing absurdly marked up subscriptions to useless magazines), the yakuza follow through and essentially have ended some executives’ careers. This is such a big problem that all major corporations will now schedule their meeting on the same day at the same time to limit the number of companies that can be hit by the yakuza in any given year. There is even a specific division of the Tokyo police who only work on preventing sokaiya. In 1984, the law made first steps to reduce the threat from sōkaiya by establishing that you had to own 50,000 yen minimum to be allowed into the shareholder meeting, leading to a slow decline of the number of sōkaiya. In response to this, some sōkaiya would drive what essentially I imagine as ice cream trucks around the building that was holding a meeting, blaring their trolling of the company over the truck’s loudspeakers to try and shame the executives as shareholders walked in and out.

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