Ethical standards are being reinforced at an ever-growing rate in both public and private sectors in Korea and in other OECD countries, including the US. Part of this trend is the increasing enforcement of the laws of one jurisdiction in another, such as the FCPA and the UK Bribery Act.
Korea also has a wide array of anti-corruption laws, including the Criminal Code, the Act on the Aggravated Punishment, Etc. of Specific Crimes, the Act on Prevention of Improper Solicitation and Provision/Receipt of Money and Valuables (the “Improper Solicitation and Graft Act”) and the Act on Combating Bribery of Foreign Officials in International Business. Our Corporate Investigations & White Collar Defense Practice has observed increased interests in general compliance issues throughout Korean society since the Improper Solicitation and Graft Act took effect on September 28, 2016, especially because the new law imposes corporate liability for violations of the anti-corruption provisions.
We have undertaken effective defense efforts for a diverse group of clients involved in domestic corruption cases, and advocated for anti-corruption at a global level. We also regularly advise our clients in developing strong monitoring and control systems, and in conducting internal audits.
Finance/Insurance/Securities Sector Experience
With the increased sophistication and globalization in capital markets, a robust defense strategy requires up-to-date professional knowledge of the industry and complete understanding of the highly regulated financial markets. Our Corporate Investigations & White Collar Defense Practice has successfully represented numerous financial institutions and their officers and directors in connection with various high-profile cases.
In recent years, there has been a greater propensity of seemingly routine tax, customs and other regulatory audits involving a referral to the police and prosecutors for a criminal investigation.
As a result, a seemingly routine regulatory inquiry may involve not only the relevant regulatory authorities, such as the relevant tax office, customs office, the Financial Supervisory Commission, or the Bank of Korea, but also the police and prosecutors. Familiarity with the types of procedures conducted by these organizations is an essential part of a successful defense effort. Over the course of several decades, Kim & Chang has accumulated unique know-how, providing highly sophisticated legal services to our clients. Together with former government officials from regulatory agencies, Kim & Chang offers the insight and most appropriate solution to any given complex regulatory case.
In Korea, the government has been calling for stricter standards and increased penalties in the enforcement of rules against unfair trade practices and other antitrust-related cases. The Korea Fair Trade Commission has increased its level of activities, and a growing number of cases are being referred to the Prosecutors’ Office for criminal prosecution.
The Prosecutors’ Office has also focused on competition law issues, as evidenced by the establishment of a department that is exclusively responsible for antitrust cases.
Our team of lawyers, in close cooperation with colleagues from the Antitrust & Competition Practice, has provided proactive defense activities at all relevant stages and guidance on preemptive measures.
Trade Secrets/Intellectual Property
Trade secret infringement cases have evolved from traditional disputes among competitors into more complex, cross-border disputes involving suppliers or vendors. As such, the ability to engage in highly technological discussions has become a key requirement in understanding and resolving these matters. Our Corporate Investigations & White Collar Defense Practice collaborates with our firm’s patent specialists to provide comprehensive and systematic defense activities from the initial investigation stage to the trial stage.
Criminal cases have arisen from construction cases ranging from large-scale renovations involving bid-rigging to various cases involving technical industry regulations. Our Corporate Investigations & White Collar Defense Practice has successfully conducted defense activities, and is a pioneer in this area, successfully representing clients in landmark cases, together with our firm’s litigation specialists.
With growing national interest in health-related industries, and the introduction of a more rigid regulatory regime, including the so-called “Dual Punishment System,” Korean regulatory authorities are increasingly monitoring and fighting what had once been a pervasive social practice – the giving and taking of rebates.
Our Corporate Investigations & White Collar Defense Practice works closely with the medical and pharmaceutical experts in our Health Practice to appropriately address and respond to these dramatic changes in the industry.
For more than 40 years, our Health Practice has advised the great majority of multinational firms in these sectors, from established industry leaders to newer biotech companies and start-ups.
Environment/Plant Safety/Product Liability
Environmental issues have become a primary focus of social concern in Korea. Safety concerns over consumer products and observation of emission standards and other safety issues in automobiles have drawn keen interest.
We have represented and provided strategic advice to various clients in large-scale environmental issues drawing national attention.
Labor & Employment
With the emergence of growing income inequality as an overarching social issue in Korea, the Korean government has introduced stricter standards to regulate labor-related issues, such as non-regular employees and illegally dispatched employees.
Further, labor unions frequently request the Prosecutors’ Office to conduct criminal investigations of labor-related issues, including the use of the threat of an investigation as leverage in labor negotiations with employers. In these types of criminal investigations, defense becomes particularly critical as individual senior executives of companies can be criminally charged.
Our Corporate Investigations & White Collar Defense Practice has provided successful defense activities with the support of certified labor consultants for companies faced with complex labor-related issues.
With rising expectations of transparency in Korean corporate activities, preemptive and remedial measures (including internal investigations) are being called for to deal with non-compliant elements of the corporate environment.
In recent years, the Korean government has encouraged whistleblowing by enacting laws to protect whistleblowers. The increase in whistleblowing has underlined the importance of dealing with them proactively.
Our Corporate Investigations & White Collar Defense Practice has extensive experience in conducting internal investigations for corporate management, boards of directors, regional management, and global management.
In addition to major, high-profile investigations that would ultimately involve interactions with government agencies, we also specialize in more focused, rapid, and confidential reviews. We understand the need to minimize the disruption to business operations and potential collateral consequences to our clients.
Our Corporate Investigations & White Collar Defense Practice also includes an unparalleled team of experienced forensics experts. Our pool of resources enables us to engage in internal audits and investigations across a wide range of issues. Our team includes specialists in both forensic accounting and digital forensics.
Our firm began employing digital forensics experts more than a decade ago, and remains the only law firm in Korea with a significant pool of IT engineers with investigation experience. They provide meaningful contributions in our investigation, compliance, and criminal defense matters.
Our forensics team works closely with our compliance and anti-corruption experts to provide our clients a total package of services. In addition, based on our significant whistleblowing case experience, our Corporate Investigations & White Collar Defense Practice provides companies with strategic and practical legal and non-legal advisory services.
The Personal Information Protection Act (“PIPA”) was enacted in 2011. In addition, other privacy laws in Korea impose an extensive array of protective measures to safeguard personal information, which companies doing business in Korea may collect and use in the course of their business. As a result, companies are facing new types of risks arising from PIPA violations.
In close coordination with our Privacy & Data Security Practice experts, our practitioners have defended most of the landmark cases in this area, and provide wide-ranging and in-depth service to our clients.
- Represented a major German automotive company in criminal investigations concerning emissions and homologation related violations.
- Represented all relevant officers of one of Korea’s largest conglomerates during an investigation by the Prosecutors’ Office and subsequent trial proceedings regarding alleged tax evasion, embezzlement, and breach of fiduciary duties.
- Successfully defended a US wealth management company against allegations of inappropriately being appointed the financial advisor for a Korean public corporation’s acquisition of a Canadian oil company.
- Defended three executives of a Korean multinational electronics company against charges for converting properties belonging to another large electronics manufacturer and also interfering with this competitor’s business.
- Represented a US electronics company in a trade secret case, which involved a former employee who allegedly brought trade secrets from his previous employer, leading to non-prosecution decision against the company.
- Acted as defense counsel for a Korean industrial conglomerate’s executive officers, including the Chairman and CEO, regarding allegations including tax evasion and embezzlement of company funds.
- Successfully represented the management of a large Korean conglomerate in a case involving alleged violation of fiduciary duties relating to a leveraged buyout transaction (“LBO”).
- Represented a US insurance company in an investigation regarding criminal violations of the Personal Information Protection Act (“PIPA”) of its affiliate in Korea.
- Represented the Korean branch of one of the largest providers of healthcare information in the US in a criminal personal data breach case.
- Successfully represented employees of a global hi-tech company charged with infringing the trade secrets of a major semi-conductor manufacturer.
- Successfully represented a Chinese e-commerce company in a trade secrets infringement investigation where both the company and its former representative were cleared of charges.
- Conducted comprehensive and specialized defense activities involving a large-scale hacking of an overseas IT company, minimizing repercussions from potential regulatory, criminal, and civil liabilities against the backdrop of a strong data protection regime in Korea.
- Successfully represented a global internet portal company and its Korean branch in a police investigation regarding the alleged improper collection of credit information from Korean customers who bought applications from the company, resulting in a decision not to prosecute the company and the Korean branch.
- Represented a global social networking service in a criminal matter involving its games applications, which resulted in a decision by the authorities not to prosecute.
- Provided comprehensive defense and strategic compliance guidance in response to an ongoing, major overhaul of compliance standards in the healthcare industry, obtaining a non-prosecution decision from the investigative authority.
- Advised a multinational pharmaceutical company in the investigation by multiple Korean agencies regarding alleged violation of Korean pharmaceutical law.
- Successfully defended against the largest alleged stock price manipulation case in the context of actual and futures markets regarding a number of complex financial derivatives products, including KIKO (“Knock In, Knock Out” foreign exchange products), ELS (equity linked securities), and ELW (equity linked warrants).
- Successfully represented a global investment bank against an allegation of non-licensed bond brokerage business, resulting in the Prosecutors’ Office’s decision not to indict.
- Advised a global financial institution in the investigation by the Prosecutors’ Office for alleged violation of the regulations relating to sale of notes to Korean institutional investors.
- Defended a major Korean pharmaceutical company in an insider trading charge against the company and its employees and minimized the company’s exposure to criminal punishment.
- Represented the Korean branch of a global bank in a matter concerning a potential security leak at the bank, leading to a non-prosecution.
- Represented the Seoul Branch of a foreign bank involving alleged improper handling of structured bond products and related derivatives transactions.
- Successfully represented a multinational bank in a matter concerning alleged criminal violations of Korean capital markets laws, clearing all criminal charges for the suspected employees.
- Represented a French multinational company, one of the largest defense companies in the world, in a criminal defense case concerning alleged violations of the Military Secret Protection Act (“MSPA”).
- Represented the Korean subsidiary of a foreign aerospace and defense company in a matter involving allegations that an executive violated Korean laws regarding military classified information.
- Successfully represented the Korean subsidiary of a global automotive parts manufacturer in a matter involving alleged tax evasion.
- Advised a global professional services company in a criminal investigation regarding misconduct concerning a project involving a government-owned energy company.
- Acted as counsel when a competitor and malicious consumers filed a criminal complaint against a major Korean brewing company.
Third Consecutive Winner of “South Korea Firm of the Year” – Asialaw Awards 20202020.08.26
84 Professionals Named National Leaders – Who’s Who Legal: Korea 20202020.06.11
Tier 1 in All Ten Practice Areas – Benchmark Litigation Asia-Pacific 20202020.05.08
Thomson Reuters Regulatory Intelligence – Anti-Money Laundering: Korea Chapter (2019)2020.01.08
Top Tier in 18 Areas and 66 Individual Recognitions – Chambers Asia-Pacific 20202019.12.06
WWL Korea 2019: Recent Developments in Anti-Corruption Enforcement in South Korea2019.09.27