When Samsung (among others) was called out for taking part in a mobile price-fixing scheme last week I expected the company to pony up the 14.2 billion won and keep their collective heads down for a while. That would’ve been the smart move: pay up, show remorse, move on, etc.
A few Samsung execs had a different idea though. According to the Korea JoongAng Daily, they instead obstructed an official investigation by the country’s Fair Trade Commission shortly thereafter, which netted the company another 400 million won ($356,000) in fines.
The fine may not sound like much — especially in comparison to the one they were hit with last week — but it’s the largest that the Korean Fair Trade Commission has ever meted out for obstructing an investigation. That should give you an idea of how seriously the Korean government seems to be taking this situation, but what exactly did those Samsung employees do?
The extent to which Samsung employees tried to cover up the company’s misdeeds was pretty astounding. A small group of Samsung security guards attempted to bar a team of investigators from entering the premises, even going so far as to say that President Lee Myung-Bak wouldn’t be able to enter without an appointment. While they ran interference, a “high-level executive in the wireless department” ordered employees to get ride of related data and replace computers to cover their tracks.
And that’s not all. The Korea Herald reports that Samsung occasionally provided the FTC with falsified information intended to throw off the commission’s investigation.
One unnamed Samsung executive was particularly tricky — he not only lied about attending a meeting in Seoul on the day of the investigation, he was also found to have completely wiped his PC’s hard drive. He later admitted that his computer contained information about their deals with carrier SK Telecom, who received the lion’s share of fines (20.2 billion won, or $17.9 million) doled out by the FTC last week.
You have to wonder what was going though these guys’ heads; did they honestly thought a quick-and-dirty coverup would be enough to stymie investigators? The whole thing seems very brazen to me, though I suppose I can see where fear and panic would take hold of these execs and drive them (and their employees by extension) to do some ridiculous things.