Counsel in Singapore’s landmark Astro v Lippo case
- People in Who’s Who:
- Pending cases as counsel:
- Value of pending counsel work:
- US$4.7 billion
- Treaty cases
- Current arbitrator appointments:
- 19 (of which 12 are as sole or chair)
- No. of lawyers sitting as arbitrator:
WongPartnership started life as specialist litigation firm Wong Meng Meng & Partners in 1992 and comprised a dozen lawyers. Two years later, it merged with a corporate practice and became WongPartnership. Today, it has more than 280 lawyers and is one of Singapore’s largest firms. It handles arbitrations on a domestic level and across Asia.
The firm’s international arbitration practice is led by Alvin Yeo SC, a respected arbitrator and counsel. Yeo is a member of the LCIA court, the ICC commission on arbitration and SIAC’s council of advisers.
In addition to Singapore, WongPartnership has offices in Shanghai, Doha, Abu Dhabi and Beijing.
Who uses it?
Astro All Asia Networks is one well-known client. Other clients include Unitas Capital, Hyundai Steel Company, Banyan Tree Holdings, Ernst & Young, Shanghai Electric Group and Yantai Raffles Shipyard. For Unitas – an offshoot of JPMorgan’s private equity – WongPartnership worked on a shareholder dispute arising from a US$260 million leveraged buyout of a Mauritius company.
Lengthy. One of the team’s early milestones was the successful defence of a dozen Asian airlines in 1998 after they were sued by a US computerised reservations system company for US$300 million. That ICC arbitration took place in London and spawned litigation in the courts of Atlanta and Singapore.
The firm won a US$230 million award for members of the Astro group of companies – an international media conglomerate – only to see the bulk of the award knocked down by the Singapore Court of Appeal in October 2013 (see below).
More happily, it acted successfully for the main contractor of an oil-drilling platform in the South China Sea in an action against the platform’s owners that involved questions relating to liability for costs relating to the SARS epidemic that gripped Hong Kong and south China in 2003.
In court, the team has been part of a number of precedent-setting cases about arbitration, including Tang Boon Jek Jeffrey v Tan Poh Leng Stanley and Holland v Toyo Engineering, as well as the recent win in AJT v AJU. In this last case, WongPartnership represented a Thai media company in a dispute with a BVI sports promoter concerning a Bangkok tennis tournament they were jointly organising. The firm won a decision from the Singapore Court of Appeal upholding a SIAC award embodying a settlement agreement. The case has been credited with helping to define the scope of the public policy challenge to enforcement in Singapore.
As mentioned above, the firm’s past success for client Astro turned sour in 2013 as the Singaporean Court of Appeal refused to enforce all but US$700,000 of a US$230 million award against First Media, a subsidiary of Indonesia’s Lippo Group. The case marked a rare intervention by the city-state’s courts in the arbitral process and was the first court case in Singapore in a decade to feature Queen’s Counsel on both sides.
The firm was brought in late by London-listed company Green Dragon Gas to defend a SIAC claim by ConocoPhillips concerning coal bed methane operations in China’s Shanxi province. It is now pursuing set-aside proceedings against a US$43 million award imposed on their client in July.
The arbitration group picked up several new instructions in the past year, including from a major international hotel management group in a US$150 million ICC claim against a number of Indian companies. It is also appearing in an ad hoc arbitration under UNCITRAL rules over the sale of coal-mining interests in Indonesia, with claims over US$200 million. At the HKIAC, it is appearing for an HKSE-listed Chinese property developer in a US$54 million claim against a Hong Kong hotel operator.
WongPartnership has a leading international arbitration practice with extensive expertise and experience in managing and conducting arbitrations in jurisdictions around the world and involving all the major arbitral institutions. With offices in Abu Dhabi, Beijing, Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai and Yangon, we are able to provide international solutions.
With more than 100 lawyers, including four Senior Counsel, our Group has specialist teams covering Banking & Financial Disputes, Commercial & Corporate Disputes, Infrastructure, Construction & Engineering, International Arbitration and Specialist & Private Client Disputes.
Many of our partners are accredited arbitrators with leading international arbitral institutions. These include the Asia Pacific Regional Arbitration Group, the Hong Kong International Arbitration Centre, the International Chamber of Commerce, the Korean Commercial Arbitration Board, the Kuala Lumpur Regional Centre for Arbitration, the Singapore International Arbitration Centre and the South China International Economic and Trade Arbitration Commission.
We are consistently acknowledged and ranked highly by many international legal directories and are proud to be listed in Global Arbitration Review's top 100 arbitration firms in the world.
Alvin YEO, Senior Counsel
d +65 6416 8101
e [email protected]
Andre MANIAM, Senior Counsel
Head – Litigation & Dispute Resolution Group
d +65 6416 8134
e [email protected]