Nine South Korean executives at Samsung are being investigated to determine whether they used insider trading to profit illegally from a merger between two of the company’s subsidiaries, Cheil Industries and Samsung C&T Corp.
Korea Exchange’s monitoring team found suspicious trading activity from the executives in question, prompting the Financial Services Commission to begin investigating. The executives are thought to have bought Cheil Industries shares worth $40-50 billion U.S. in April and May. When the merger was announced, Cheil Industries’ shares shot up in value, meaning that it could have held more power than any other Samsung affiliate. Because the executives are rumored to have bought these shares before the merger happened, they stood to make a lot of money.
Activist hedge fund Elliott Associates, which owned 7.12% of Samsung C&T before the merger, tried to keep the merger from going forward. Using legal measures, Elliott argued that the merger deal’s price of $8 billion “undervalued the construction unit,” says the Wall Street Journal. Despite their protests, the merger passed at a shareholders’ meeting in July.
Elliott also said that the merger “wronged minority shareholders by grossly undervaluing Samsung C&T shares in an unlawful attempt to help Lee Jae-yong, the son of Samsung’s chairman, Lee Kun-hee, inherit leadership of the conglomerate.”
As of August, the hedge fund was trying to sell its shares of Samsung C&T. The company said that the decision had been made “in light of, among other things, the continued overvaluation of Cheil Industries, which Elliott believes to be wholly unjustified.”
Despite Elliott’s balking, about 70% of shareholders approved the merger.
Currently, Samsung is also expected to pay Apple $548 million over a patent dispute, though Samsung is asking to reserve the right to be reimbursed for the payment in case Apple’s patents are declared invalid, or if Samsung wins an appeal. Both Apple and Samsung have argued that the other is using their patents. A final decision has yet to be reached in the case.