(Bloomberg) -- Korean consumers were misled by some of the nation’s biggest financial firms and should get back the money they lost when a German property fund collapsed, South Korea’s financial watchdog recommended Tuesday.
The six firms -- Shinhan Securities Co., NH Investment & Securities Co., Hana Bank, Woori Bank, Hyundai Motor Securities Co. and SK Securities Co. -- should repay the 430 billion won ($317 million) clients lost, a panel at Financial Supervisory Service said. While the panel’s decision is just a recommendation, brokerages have accepted proposals from the panel in the past, according to the watchdog.
The German Property Group, formerly known as Dolphin Trust, at the center of the scandal filed for bankruptcy in 2020, wiping out about $1 billion of investor cash. While investors from the UK, Singapore and Ireland also lost money, South Korea is unique because the people affected mostly bought through regulated finance firms, giving them the chance to recoup some of their losses.
The Financial Supervisory Service said it received 190 complaints against six firms that sold the fund and derivatives products in South Korea. The products were pitched to retail investors, many of them retirees, as real estate projects that would transform historic sites and castles in Germany into apartments.
Read more: The Property Pitch That Wiped Out $1 Billion in Investor Money
“The six firms admitted that they misled investors as they explained the project could proceed as planned given German developer’s outstanding business records, credit and financial status,” the panel said. The products’ proposals by an overseas asset management firm were “mostly false or exaggerated.”
No one would have invested in the products had they known it would be “impossible to get their investment back,” it added.
Shinhan, Woori, Hyundai Motor Securities, SK Securities and NH Investment & Securities said they are reviewing the panel’s decision.
Woori added it decided to pay 50% of the principal to the buyers in October last year.
Hana Bank could not be reached for comment.
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