Home Technology Samsung chief Jay Y. Lee found not guilty in 2015 merger case

Samsung chief Jay Y. Lee found not guilty in 2015 merger case

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Samsung chief Jay Y. Lee found not guilty in 2015 merger case

Samsung Electronics Chairman Jay Y. Lee was found not guilty on Monday of accounting fraud and stock manipulation by a court in Seoul, South Korea.

The case was related to a 2015 merger that prosecutors said aimed to establish his control of the tech giant. All 14 defendants were acquitted in this case.

Lee, 55, and other former executives were accused of engineering a merger between Samsung affiliates Samsung C&T and Cheil Industries in a way that ignored the interests of minority shareholders.

Before the merger, the Lee family and related entities controlled Cheil but not Samsung C&T, which was a major shareholder in Samsung Electronics.

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Samsung Electronics Co. Executive Chairman Jay Y. Lee leaves after attending a final decision at the Seoul Central District Court. (Getty Images)

Prosecutors had asked for a five-year jail term for Lee, who denied wrongdoing, saying he and other executives acted on the belief the merger would benefit shareholders.

The panel of three judges at the Seoul Central District Court said the merger decision was reached by the boards of the two companies following their review.

“It cannot be concluded that the sole purpose was to strengthen management rights of defendant Lee Jae-yong and ease his succession within the Samsung Group,” Judge Park Jeong-je said to the courtroom, referring to Lee by his Korean name.

The sentence keeps Lee from returning to jail. He was convicted in 2017 of bribing a friend of former President Park Geun-hye and served 18 months of a 30-month sentence. Lee was pardoned in 2022 by current President Yoon Suk Yeol, with the government saying his help was needed to overcome a “national economic crisis.”

If prosecutors do not appeal the ruling, Lee’s legal troubles will be cleared for the first time since 2016.

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Samsung Electronics Co. Executive Chairman Jay Y. Lee

Seoul Central District Court acquits Samsung Electronics Co. Executive Chairman Jay Y. Lee in controversial 2015 merger case. (Getty Images)

Lee’s lawyer, Kim You-jin, praised the court for “a wise decision.”

Park Yong-jin, a lawmaker for the main opposition Democratic Party, criticized the ruling in a Facebook post, saying Lee’s succession was unfair and that heads of conglomerates should not be protected in the interest of a fair market economy.

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Stocks In This Article:

As of the end of September, the Lee family and related entities owned 20.7% of Samsung Electronics.

Shares in Samsung C&T, the group’s de-facto holding company in which Lee is the largest shareholder, increased by as much as 5% ahead of the ruling before cutting gains to be largely flat.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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