The financial regulator is set to inspect the money-lending arm of troubled Tong Yang Group over a possible accounting fraud aimed at providing liquidity to its cash-strapped affiliates, officials said Friday.
The Financial Supervisory Service (FSS) will ask the Korea Institute of Certified Public Accountants (KICPA) to look into the books of Tongyang Financial Services Corp. and see if it has abided by the international accounting rules, otherwise known as the IFRS, FSS officials said.
The probe comes as Tong Yang Group, the 38th-largest family-run conglomerate in South Korea, has been dogged by a liquidity crunch, with five of its affiliates placed under court receivership after the firm defaulted on some 110 billion won (US$102.8 million) worth of debts that were to mature on Sept. 30.
The FSS has begun an extensive probe into Tong Yang's key financial arms, including the brokerage unit, for alleged unfair trading and negligence of the owner family in the lead up to the default.
But the local regulator is only authorized to investigate financial companies that owe banks a certain amount of loans, or that are listed on the stock market. It is thus planning to lodge the inspection request at the KICPA for the unlisted Tongyang Financial Services, FSS officials added.
Tongyang Financial Services should have set aside the adequate amount of reserves against potential loan losses from two of Tong Yang Group's units -- Tongyang Leisure Co. and Tongyang International Inc. -- that have now been filed for court protection.
Suspicions have arisen that Tongyang Financial Services may have deliberately inflated the two affiliates' assets in a bid to qualify them for more loan extensions. Both Tongyang Leisure and Tongyang International had posted net negative worth at the time of the loan approvals, the FSS said.
As of the end of September, Tongyang Financial Services has provided funds worth about 200 billion won to other Tong Yang affiliates, either as loans or stakes, FSS data showed.