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Investors seek suit over Osstem theft case

Osstem Implant. (Yonhap)
Osstem Implant. (Yonhap)
Individual investors are seeking legal action for damages caused by an employee at Osstem Implant who was arrested Wednesday for having allegedly stolen 188 billion won ($156 million) from the Kosdaq-listed company.

The stolen money accounted for 91 percent of the company’s equity as of last year. The shares of the implant maker, worth a little over 2 trillion won in market value, were suspended from trading Monday after the company reported the massive theft to police.

“There is damage from the misleading quarterly results the firm had posted and from suspended trading. Those will be our grounds,” said Kim Joo-young, one of the two managing partners at Seoul-based law firm Hannuri seeking to represent investors affected by the theft.

Kim Ju-yeon, an attorney-at-law on the case, said the shareholders could also ask the court to look into potential infractions by directors at Osstem, who are accused of lax internal oversight. The law firm is reaching out to investors who want to file a complaint.

“We will have to look at more evidence before we establish our grounds,” Kim said.

This is not the first time the implant maker faced the risk of delisting from the tech-heavy Kosdaq exchange. In 2014, Osstem’s shares were suspended from trading because the largest shareholder, who essentially led the firm as chairman, was indicted on embezzlement charges.

The chairman still oversees the firm as the largest shareholder, with a separate CEO in charge of day-to-day business. The chairman and CEO have reportedly said they could retrieve at least 150 billion won. Officials have yet to offer a definitive answer.

“That’s what they said. We haven’t run our checks on that. We’ll be able to say something once we’ve looked through all the papers they are sending over,” an official at the Korea Exchange said. The bourse operator is expected to announce by late January whether Osstem will carry on trading.

Meanwhile, the top financial regulator said he would better protect minority shareholders.

“Legal proceedings aside, we will do what we can to protect investors. … We will not hesitate to take other actions deemed necessary,” said Koh Seung-beom, chairman of the Financial Services Commission, referring to Lee’s theft.

By Choi Si-young (siyoungchoi@heraldcorp.com)
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