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[Editorial] Post-court ruling action

Oct. 7, 2011 - 19:32 By
With Lone Star Funds found guilty of stock-price manipulation, the Financial Services Commission is set to take post-ruling measures, including ordering the Texas-based private equity firm to dispose of the stake it holds in Korea Exchange Bank in excess of a 10 percent stake.

In a retrial ordered by the Supreme Court, the Seoul High Court ruled on Thursday that Lone Star and its Korea representative rigged the stock prices of the bank’s credit card union to help the bank consolidate it at a lower cost in 2003. The court fined Lone Star 25 billion won.

Lone Star has yet another legal dispute to settle. It has appealed the National Tax Service’s 2007 levy of 119.2 billion won for a corporation tax.

With the Financial Services Commission to take post-ruling measures, pressure from the bank’s union and civic groups is now mounting on the Korean financial authority to take punitive action against Lone Star to forestall its attempt to “dine and dash.” The measures to be taken include an order to dispose of its 41.02 percent stake in the bank.

Pressure is also coming from foreign investors and investment consultants, who are reportedly warning that any such action would discourage foreigners from investing in Korea. A reminder in this regard, they say, is the Korean government’s recent failed attempt to sell its stake in Woori Finance.

But the financial authority, in making decisions, will have to shield itself from undue pressure from the two opposing groups and, at the same time, ensure that no one, be he a Korean national or a foreign investor, can be allowed to take illicit gains. It goes without saying that the decisions must be made within the defined statutory realm.

At stake is the financial authority’s decision on whether or not to approve Hana Financial Group’s agreement to buy Lone Star’s stake in the bank, which had been put on hold pending the court ruling. Hana says it will serve the interests of its shareholders by doing its best to seal the deal.

Critics to the Hana-Lone Star deal, however, insist with good reason that the U.S. equity fund would be virtually allowed to take illicit gains if it should be given an order to dispose of its take in the bank without any strings attached. The financial authority is called on to keep this claim in mind when making decisions.