Samsung fired a number of high-ranking marketing officials and reassigned many other as part of the largest reorganization of its American unit in recent memory.
The recent departure of U.S. marketing chief Marc Mathieu was just a prelude to a company-wide audit that probed the manner wherein the firm's many officials dealt with partners such as media and advertising agencies. The investigation concluded a number of employees were essentially playing buddy-buddy with certain partners, hence failing to direct the company's resources at the best-performing channels and finding themselves in a major conflict of interest, the WSJ reports, citing people close to the stateside branch of the South Korean conglomerate.
A handful of employees terminated as a direct result of the investigation were notified of their terminations last Friday, March 15. The firm told them it's terminating them with cause, citing the said conflicts of interests and generally unprofessional behavior that didn't put the company's best interest as the highest item on their priority list.
Some of the individuals terminated on the occasion reportedly feel hard done by Samsung, claiming the evidence of their supposed conflicts of interests are circumstantial at best, implying the company did not have enough proof to claim cause for the firings. As this type of termination automatically means no severance pay, it's possible the employees in question are laying the groundwork for lawsuits.
Even if that was to happen, Samsung is unlikely to ever defend itself against class-action litigation pertaining to the audit as while the overall cause prompting it to start the investigation was universal, the firings stemming from it were also justified separately using unique evidence, regardless of how conclusive or not it actually was.
Samsung avoided directly confirming such turmoil within its own ranks, having only acknowledged some form of restructuring took place at its U.S. marketing division several weeks back.
You get an audit, you get an audit!
Samsung's own employees weren't the only ones subjected to the firm's snooping endeavors in recent times. The chaebol's largest PR and marketing firms were also looked at as part of the same investigation. As expected, company-wide audits proved to be much more time-consuming that reviews of individual workers, with insiders claiming some of those corporate probes spanned months, describing their length and timing as nothing unusual.
Neither are the claims of buddy-buddy relationships being nurtured with certain members of the media industry for one reason or another, as most tech outlets that have been in this business for a while now can attest to.
Immoral offers aside, the fact that positive product coverage like news and reviews generally does much better than negative one in terms of readership and viewership — primarily because it's more socially "contagious," which is a scientifically described and observed term — is something that can easily make
Besides Mr. Mathieu, Media and Partnerships VP Jay Altschuler also left Samsung this year, yet neither of them has any relation to the newly discovered audit, or at least Samsung isn't telling if they do. Performance reviews themselves are standard practice the Internet juggernaut. Samsung Electronics President and CEO Tim Baxter said he intends to retire in June. The scope of the firings related to conflicts of interests at Samsung's U.S. marketing arm is also unknown at this moment.
Samsung employs over 18,000 people in the country, so the latest development is unlikely to put a significant dent in its American headcount.
The year of many questions
Samsung's Android smartphone sales have been on a decline in late 2018 and some of its top models underperformed even earlier in the year, with the most notable example being the Galaxy S9 range. The firm doubled down on innovation with the Galaxy S10 series launched earlier this month, hoping to incentivize more consumers to buy its latest (and some of the most expensive) mobile devices.
Whether it succeeds in that goal remains to be seen but it appears it's not placing an even larger focus on the already important American market, still the world's largest market for flagships. In the last year alone, Samsung spent over half a billion dollars on various stateside media initiatives, according to numerous industry trackers.