SEOUL, South Korea – South Korea’s financial regulator said Friday it is investigating possible insider trading by Samsung executives related to a contentious takeover deal.
Kim Hongsik, director of the capital markets investigation unit at the Financial Services Commission, said South Korea’s stock exchange reported the suspected insider trading or share manipulation.
South Korea’s Yonhap News reported that nine Samsung executives purchased as much as 50 billion won ($43 million) of Cheil Industries stock before Samsung announced a deal to combine Cheil and another Samsung company in May.
Shares of Cheil, which has members of Samsung’s founding Lee family as majority shareholders, surged after the announcement.
Kim said the investigation was related to the deal but declined to discuss other details because the matter was under investigation.
In a statement, Samsung described the investigation as being in its “early stage.”
The Cheil Industries and Samsung C&T deal was contested by some shareholders of Samsung C&T who questioned its fairness.
Samsung C&T narrowly won a shareholder vote in July, allowing the transaction to go ahead. The combined entity has Samsung Electronics’ vice chairman Lee Jae-yong as the majority shareholder giving him effective control of its 4 per cent stake in Samsung Electronics, the Samsung conglomerate’s crown jewel.
The most outspoken opponent of the deal was U.S. hedge fund Elliott Associates, which eventually lost its legal fight to stop Samsung from combining the two companies.
Elliott argued the takeover unfairly benefited Samsung’s founding family and other shareholders in Cheil at the cost of shareholders in Samsung C&T.
The fight between Elliott and Samsung drew international attention as Samsung’s all-out campaign was at one point criticized by Jewish organizations for depicting Elliott’s founder as a ravenous, big-beaked vulture.