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GAR 100 - 9th Edition

Skrine

18 February 2016

The Malaysian firm is a popular choice as co-counsel

People in Who’s Who Legal: 1
Pending cases as counsel: 9
Value of pending counsel work: Did not disclose
Treaty cases: 0
Current arbitrator appointments: 42 (of which 24 are as sole or chair)
Lawyers sitting as arbitrator: 6

Founded in 1963 from the ashes of Bannon & Bailey, Skrine was a small outfit that grew into a full-service firm. At around 100 lawyers, it is one of the largest firms in Malaysia.

Vinayak Pradhan – a big name in local arbitration circles – has been practising for almost 40 years. He’s a former president of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators and part of the global advisory board for the Kuala Lumpur Regional Centre for Arbitration. A former commissioner for the UN Compensation Commission, he also sits as an arbitrator at ICSID and is a member of the Court of Arbitration for Sport and the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague.

The arbitration group spans some other senior partners, notably Lim Chee Wee (former president of the Malaysian Bar), Ivan Loo (admitted to the English Bar) and Leong Wai Hong (the current head of the firm’s dispute resolution practice and a member of the ICC Malaysia panel of arbitrators).

Who uses it?

The firm represents a number of Japanese and English construction and engineering companies, as well as companies in the energy sector, including Shell, BP, Bains Harding, Standard Elektrik Lorenz and Tipco Asphalt.

Other well-known clients include Mitsui and Daewoo Engineering.

Track record

The firm bagged a US$20 million win against a Singaporean subsidiary of Glencore for Thai Bitumen Company (a subsidiary of Tipco Asphalt) in 2011 – in a dispute regarding a breach of an oil sale contract.

The firm also secured a win for a subsidiary of the Polar Electro Group, a manufacturer of heart-rate monitors, when it convinced the Malaysian High Court to reject an application to set aside an US$18 million ICC award issued in Singapore. The case confirmed that Malaysia’s 2005 Arbitration Act does not allow Malaysian courts to set aside an arbitral award where the seat of arbitration was outside of Malaysia.

Skrine has also obtained and enforced several awards against the government of India on behalf of Scotland-based Cairn Energy. One dispute concerned a contract for the construction and instalment of telecoms towers. In that case, the enforcing court established that Malaysia’s 1952 Arbitration Act does not allow awards made under KLRCA rules to be scruitinised by the courts.

In three other cases, Skrine acted for Cairn against India on matters arising out of an offshore oil production-sharing contract. Two of the resultant awards have been enforced in Malaysia. The third award – issued in a dispute over the costs of developing an oil field in the Bay of Bengal – was upheld by the the Malaysian Court of Appeal in June 2014.

Khoo Guan Huat and Ivan Loo are also advising US company Petrocon in another case arising out of the same model production sharing contract, in which the Indian government is seeking to set aside a partial award made in Petrocon’s favour. The government’s set-aside attempts have already been denied once by the High Court, on the grounds it had no jurisdiction to hear the case because the seat of the arbitration had shifted from Kuala Lumpur to London.

Recent events

One of the firm’s partners, Law Wai Loon, left the firm in 2015.

The firm reports that it obtained a freezing injunction for US online brokerage firm, Interactive Brokers, against three Singapore companies pending an arbitration seated in Singapore. It is believed to be the first time that Malaysia’s 2005 Arbitration Act has been used by a local court to grant interim relief in support of a foreign-seated arbitration.

In 2014, the firm acted for mining companies Thai-Lao Lignite and Hongsa Lignite in their attempts to enforce a US$57 million UNCITRAL award before the Malaysian Court of Appeal. The court, however, upheld a decision to set aside the award, which had been issued against the government of Laos. The firm will continue to act for the mining companies in Singapore enforcement proceedings that were stayed in 2012 and are due to reopen.

Client comment

Harpreet Singh Nehal SC, partner at Clifford Chance in Singapore who acted as co-counsel to Skrine in the dispute involving US online brokerage firm Interactive Brokers, says that the firm was “highly responsive, practical and a real pleasure to work with.” He describes partner Lim Chee Wee as “a key player in the Malaysia legal industry” and praises partner Lee Shih as an impressive up and coming lawyer.

Another co-counsel tells GAR: “Vinayak Pradhan is Malaysia’s best known international arbitrator whilst its serried ranks of arbitration counsel include the extraordinary Lim Chee Wee (the immediate past president of the Malaysian Bar) and Lee Shih, who is a safe pair of hands.”

Somchit Sertthin, CEO of Tipco Asphalt, says that Skrine impresses with its creativity, availability, and its refusal to “compromise on integrity and the highest ethical standards”. The team won two arbitrations for the company with their “far superior and articulate arguments” and they are working on a third, he says.

Sertthin singles out Lim Chee Wee for his leadership qualities, noting that he “presented himself in the most professional manner”.

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