Samsung’s American Whistleblower Tells His Story
A Key Source in Apple’s Ongoing Patent Battles vs. Samsung
Sept. 24, 2012 - PRLog -- In many ways, Michael Kim is a typical Silicon Valley entrepreneur and professional. He is Ivy League educated, has worked at both startup and Fortune 500 companies, and went on to business school to help ease the transition from the manager’s cubicle to the director’s office. But in early 2008, Samsung HR came calling and Michael’s career took a dramatic turn. They wanted to fly him out to Korea to interview for a key role in a new marketing and business development organization. Having been raised in the US and eager to learn more about Samsung and his parents’ homeland, he agreed to the meeting.
After arriving in Korea and being chauffeured to his interviews at Samsung, Michael was given an envelope full of cash and told to “buy a nice dinner” with it. This struck him as odd but, at the time, he didn’t give it much thought. His final round interview was with Samsung’s CEO, Oh-Hyun Kwon. In that meeting, Mr. Kwon emphasized to Michael the importance of bringing in “fresh blood” to Samsung and the “desperate need for change” at the group of companies. In effect, Michael was asked to be a change agent for the company, to identify procedures and processes that were in desperate need of change.
Samsung made a generous offer of employment and Michael began work in the summer of 2008. During his first six months on the job, Michael “kept his nose down and was largely in observation mode,” making sure to work hard and impress his bosses, a VP and an SVP. In early 2009, Michael earned a commendation for his work performance, a rare feat so early in one’s tenure at Samsung.
With those early victories in hand, Michael felt it was time to report on his observations to senior management, per the CEO’s instructions. So Michael met with his bosses, HR, and both in-house and outside counsel for Samsung, reporting instances of intellectual property theft, bribery, accounting fraud, and an overall culture of non-compliance and corruption.
What came next was an utter shock for this Silicon Valley trained professional. He was asked not to come to the office. When pressed, Samsung’s HR told Michael that he was being transferred to another Samsung office. When the transfer never materialized, he was ultimately asked to resign from his position at the company. In a state of total disbelief, Michael contacted the anti-corruption authorities in Korea and was told that they have no jurisdiction over Samsung.
So Michael returned to the US and after many months of deliberation and with the help of an old business school professor, contacted Apple’s Steve Jobs in February of 2011 regarding intellectual property issues that affected Apple products. Mr. Jobs immediately put Michael in touch with Apple’s attorneys and the first of Apple’s lawsuits against Samsung was filed a few months later.