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FSC may order bourse sale of KEB shares

Regulator apparently determined to take stern action against Lone Star Funds

Financial regulators hinted at the possibility that they could order Lone Star Funds, which was convicted of stock manipulation, to sell most of its stake in Korea Exchange Bank at market-determined prices on the stock market.

A senior official of the Financial Services Commission on Wednesday dismissed speculation that the regulator will simply order Lone Star to sell the KEB shares with no specific conditions, which may allow the U.S.-based fund to select an acquirer through an over-the-counter sale.

“Nothing has yet to be decided,” he told The Korea Herald. “But we are reviewing the laws as to whether we could attach conditions (in the coming order).”

The attachments may include “ordering Lone Star to sell its stake on the stock market” or “banning the fund from enjoying management premiums instead of allowing it to sell the shares to a particular investor like Hana Financial Group,” according to FSC officials.

(Yonhap News)
(Yonhap News)

The official also said the FSC is closely monitoring the recent situation under which the Constitutional Court is moving to review whether the regulator has neglected its duty of probing the eligibility of Lone Star as the biggest shareholder of KEB.

“We have no choice but to take the injunction (from the KEB union) and petition (from a group of small shareholders of KEB) filed with the Constitutional Court into consideration,” he said.

On Tuesday, unionized workers of KEB filed an injunction with the Constitutional Court to ban the FSC from ordering Lone Star to dispose of its KEB shares without probing the fund’s shareholder eligibility amid high possibility that it has been a non-financial investor, which is banned from owning a Korean bank under the laws.

“We administer the laws. We cannot violate the laws interpreted by the Constitutional Court,” he said.

Asked about whether the regulator will include the issue of Lone Star’s shareholder eligibility in its coming stake sale order, aside from the stock manipulation part, he said it will take some time for the FSC to finalize its decision.

But he added that there is no doubt that newly emerging factors will be included in their decision-making.

His remarks also hint that the FSC could take a wait-and-see attitude for the time being until legal uncertainties are lifted.

The prosecution is also investigating allegations that Lone Star hindered the FSC from legitimately probing its eligibility by not reporting documents verifying the fact that the fund was a non-financial investor in 2003.

Even a group of lawmakers from the ruling Grand National Party are calling for the regulator to take disciplinary measures against Lone Star.

A survey showed that 78 percent of Koreans responded that the FSC should make public the fund’s shareholder eligibility.

By Kim Yon-se and Cynthia J. Kim

<한글 기사>

[단독] 금융위, 론스타 징벌적 조치도 검토

“헌법재판소의 산업자본 심판 예의주시할 것”

금융당국이 론스타에 ‘징벌적’ 강제매각명령을 내리는 방안에 대한 법률검토에 착수했다.

금융위원회 고위관계자는 9일 “시장에서 공개매각 하라는 등의 단서를 달기엔 법적 근거가 희박하다”는 일부 언론보도를 부인하며 모든 가능성을 열어두고 법적인 문제를 논의하고 있다고 말했다.

그는 금융위원회가 단서를 달지 않는 이른바 ‘단순’ 강제매각명령으로 가닥을 잡았다는 보도에 대해 “(일부) 언론이 특정 그룹(하나금융지주)의 입장에서 기사를 쓰는 것 같다”고 말했다.

그는 매각명령 시 단서를 붙이지 말라는 법은 없다며 이 경우 법적으로 하자가 없는지 등을 검토하고 있다고 밝혔다.

금융당국은 또한 론스타의 비금융주력자(산업자본) 여부와 관련, 헌법재판소 및 검찰의 움직임을 예의주시하고 있다.

이 관계자는 “금융위는 법을 집행하는 기관이다. 집행기관이 헌재의 해석을 거스를 수 없다”며 “뭐든 법대로 처리하는 게 맞다”고 말했다.

헌재가 외환은행 노조의 “가처분 신청을 인용하면 금융위는 론스타의 산업자본 여부를 포함한 대주주적격성 심사 없이 매각명령을 내리지 못한다”는 것이 그의 설명이다.

그는 이어 금융위가 어떤 결정을 내리든 향후에도 론스타 문제에 대해 두고두고 말이 나올 것이라고 예상했다.

한편, 헌재의 결정 또는 검찰의 수사결과에 따라 금융위가 매각명령계획을 무기한 연기할 경우 외환은행 매각은 또다시 표류할 가능성도 제기되고 있다. (코리아 헤럴드)