The government ordered to pay $217 million in investor-state suit
An international settlement center instructed South Korea to pay $216.5 million to U.S. buyout fund Lone Star in a legal battle fought hard for the past decade, according to government officials on Aug. 31.
The Korean government was also ordered to pay accumulated interest in line with the U.S. one-month treasury rate of the past 10 years until the payment is made, Justice Minister officials said.
The International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) recently made the verdict, which observers point out is a partial victory of Lone Star.
In 2012, Lone Star filed an investor-state dispute settlement suit to the Washington-based tribunal, asking for $4.68 billion in compensation from the Korean government.
The legal battle is about Korea Exchange Bank (KEB), which Lone Star in 2003 for 1.38 trillion won and sold it to Hana Financial Group nine years later at 3.9 trillion won.
Lone Star claimed that it had had a preliminary agreement for the sale of KEB with HSBC at a higher price in 2007, but the British bank killed the pact in the next year in the aftermath of the global financial crisis.
The Texas-based private equity fund contended that the regulatory delay of the Korean government caused the lucrative deal to fall apart, demanding compensation for that.
The Korean government countered that any transactions of the country’s bank are subject to an intensive review by its financial regulators.
“The only issue of the suit was about whether or not the Korean government is responsible for the sales amount of KEB, which Lone Star received,” said Song Ki-ho, a lawyer of a local civic group.
“As the ICSID concluded that the Korean administration was responsible, the country obviously lost in the suit. And Korea should pay the amount out because there is no way to appeal the decision.”
Song said that the country’s Justice Ministry should disclose the verdict and punish those who were responsible for the verdict.
The Korean Finance & Service Workers’ Union came up with a statement, requesting the country’s top financial bureaucrats to step down.
They pointed their fingers at Deputy Prime Minister Choo Kyung-ho, who is concurrently Minister of Economy and Finance, and Financial Services Commission Kim Joo-hyun.
The union contended that the two were related to the Lone Star issues as former senior officials of the Financial Services Commission that approves the transactions of banks.