Pardons

Contrasts: Apple's Tim Cook and Samsung's Lee Kun-hee

May 19, 2013: 7:00 AM ET

The U.S. is suing Apple. Lee's government pardoned him. Twice.

Cook and Lee.

CEO Cook and Chairman Lee.

FORTUNE -- With Tim Cook scheduled to testify Tuesday before a hostile Senate subcommittee and the Department of Justice's antitrust trial against Apple (AAPL) set to begin the following week, this might be a good time to contrast how the U.S. and South Korean governments each treat their country's most valuable company.

Apple:

  • Cook is expected to be questioned sharply next week by Senators who think there's something fishy about the way Apple is holding $102 billion in offshore accounts to avoid paying U.S. taxes on the income. Cook has told interviewers that the money was earned overseas, not in the U.S., and that Apple paid $6 billion in U.S. taxes last year -- more, probably, than any other corporation.
  • Apple has been charged, along with five publishers, with conspiring to raise the prices of e-books in violation of U.S. antitrust laws. The publishers all settled. Apple says it wants a trial. It claims that before it entered the digital book market, Amazon (AMZN) had a monopoly on e-books and was selling many of the most popular titles below cost. Apple also says that since it entered the market, the price of e-books has gone down, not up.

Samsung:

  • In 1996, Chairman Lee was one of nine South Korean businessmen charged and convicted of bribing former President Roh Tae Woo. Lee said the money was a gift. Four of the businessmen were sent to prison. Lee received a suspended sentence and, later, a presidential pardon.
  • In a second high-profile case in 2008, Lee was cleared of bribery charges but convicted of tax evasion and financial wrongdoing. He was fined 110 billion won (nearly $100 million) and given a 3-year suspended jail term. A few months later he got his second presidential pardon.
  • In 2010 Samsung's former chief legal counsel published a book called Think Samsung that claimed Lee stole up to 10 trillion won ($8.9 billion) from Samsung subsidiaries, destroyed evidence, and bribed government officials to ensure the smooth transfer of power to his son.

See also: Did an Apple 2.0 story touch a nerve at Samsung HQ?

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