Lee furious at obstructive managers

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Lee furious at obstructive managers

Samsung Chairman Lee Kun-hee was furious when the group’s electronics arm was slapped with a record 400 million won ($355,000) fine from the Fair Trade Commission for obstructing an investigation, the group’s communications chief, Rhee In-yong, said yesterday.

“The chairman was furious and harshly reprimanded us,” Rhee said at a press briefing at the company headquarters in Seocho-dong, southern Seoul.

According to the FTC, Samsung employees intentionally stalled investigators dispatched from the antitrust agency to its Suwon operation in Gyeonggi in March 2011. While the investigators waited outside for about an hour, workers inside the office destroyed documents and replaced computers at the command of an executive at the mobile business division.

The investigation was about cell phone distribution.

Lee’s fury was communicated at the routine Wednesday morning meeting of Samsung’s presidents through Vice Chairman Kim Soon-taek, who presided at the meeting.

“Interfering with the government’s execution of official duties is an outright wrongdoing,” Kim was quoted as saying by Rhee. “Some executives seem to have this misperception that obstructing an investigation was a way of protecting the company.”

He said that the group is considering ways to gauge if subsidiaries are being lawful in their management, saying that business performance is not the only thing that matters.

He stressed that Samsung workers acting illegally or unethically won’t be tolerated regardless of their positions, and those involved in the case leading to the fine will be “strongly punished.” He did not say what kind of punishment would be leveled.

Last week, Samsung Electronics was fined 14.2 billion won by the antitrust body for colluding with mobile carriers to manipulate retail prices of phones.

On Saturday Lee Kun-hee celebrates the second anniversary of his return to the company after he left management in 2008 when he was charged with tax evasion and breach of trust. He was given a suspended jail term but granted a special pardon on Dec. 31, 2009.

By Seo Ji-eun [spring@joongang.co.kr]

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