The Singaporean firm expanded in Vietnam and Bangkok and represented Indonesia at ICSID
|Pending cases as counsel:||88|
|Value of pending counsel work:||US$16 billion|
|Current arbitrator appointments:||38 (of which 26 are as sole or chair)|
|Lawyers sitting as arbitrator:||9|
Rajah & Tann is one of Singapore’s leading full-service firms, founded in 1955. The roots of the international arbitration practice go back to 1999, when Sundaresh Menon (who went on to become Singapore’s attorney general and later chief justice) and Chong Yee Leong worked on a case in Bangkok. Other cases swiftly followed and the pair worked in Hong Kong, Thailand, Indonesia, India, Malaysia and Sri Lanka over the next four years.
In 2003, the entire group moved laterally to Jones Day, with Menon taking the role of head of international arbitration for Asia. However, the prodigal lawyers returned between 2006 and 2007, equipped with new international know-how and experience of arbitrations in London, Paris and Geneva. It was at this point that Rajah & Tann created a stand-alone arbitration practice, led by Chong Yee Leong.
The bad memories returned in 2013 as Chong and four other partners left to join rival Singaporean firm Allen & Gledhill.
But the firm moved swiftly to fill the space, appointing Andre Yeap SC to take Chong’s place as practice head and promoting several younger members to the partnership.
Rajah & Tann reckons it still has the largest stand-alone arbitration practice of any firm in Singapore, with 27 lawyers dedicated to the area. In recent years, it has expanded and grown in prominence, thanks in no small part to the Singaporean government’s drive to make the city-state an arbitration hub for the region.
It says it regards its main competitors for high-end and complex arbitration work not as other Singapore firms, but international firms in the United Kingdom and United States.
Apart from Singapore, the firm has offices in Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai and Vientiane.
In 2014, it entered into a tie-up with Vietnamese LCT Lawyers, with offices in Ho Chi Minh, Hanoi and Da Nang. It also has affiliations with firms in Indonesia and Cambodia, and UAE-based Al Tamimi & Company. Its Malaysian associate firm was involved in a merger with two others this year to create a full-service law firm, Christopher & Lee Ong.
Internally, it is building specialist groups focusing on other Asian jurisdictions, including Myanmar.
Who uses it?
The firm advises clients in the energy, chemical, and construction and engineering sectors, such as Malakoff, the largest independent power producer in Malaysia; Petronas Chemicals Group; Korea’s GS Engineering and Construction and Samsung C&T; and Australia’s Thiess.
It also has metals and mining clients such as Sumitomo, Bhushan Power & Steel and Global Steel Philippines.
In the telecoms sector it has advised AT&T, and other well-known clients are Kempinski Hotels, Singapore Airlines and Air Asia.
Government clients include Laos, which it represented in a mining dispute as co-counsel with Jones Day Indonesia, and Kazakhstan.
In 2012, Rajah & Tann secured a significant SIAC award against the Philippine National Bank and several other Philippine financial institutions, on behalf of companies owned by Indian steel magnate Pramod Mittal. The award was set aside by the Singapore High Court in 2014 but an appeal is pending.
The firm has also brought in wins for a Thai public company in arbitration with Singapore and Indonesian entities over breaches of financing and coal supply agreements; and a Cayman Islands fund in a dispute over a joint venture with an Indonesian oil group to take on Libyan oil concessions.
In addition, it has had successes in interim relief and enforcement proceedings before the courts.
It was behind what is said to have been the largest claim emanating from Vietnam at the SIAC.
The firm is helping Indonesia in ICSID annulment proceedings brought by UK banking investor Rafat Ali Rizvi. The applicant seeks to overturn an award that tossed out his treaty claim against the state.
The firm expanded its Vietnam offering through the tie-up with LCT and recruited partners Surasak Vajasit and Pakpoom Suntornvipat in Bangkok. They were among 14 partners who joined from Hunton & Williams.
It also welcomed new partners Jonathan Yuen, from Harry Elias Partnership, and Vikram Nair from Norton Rose Fulbright – both in Singapore. Avinash Pradhan was made partner in January after five years at the firm.
Australian engineering company Thiess retained Rajah & Tann for a dispute valued at half of its entire group’s profit for the year. Associate general counsel Philip Woods says: “Rajah & Tann’s attention to detail is second to none. They are thorough, but not in the client’s face like other firms. They do it with tact, which is important when dealing with witnesses whose future depends upon the outcome of the case.”
He adds: “While our opponents were seemingly in a constant state of surprise and panic, our team was calm and strong. We were well-prepared and well and truly in control.”
Mark Jaffe, general attorney at US telecoms company AT&T, which retained the firm for a mid-level dispute, says the firm “were extremely organised, drafted wonderful pleadings, and presented our case in a very persuasive manner”. This showed in cross-examination: “Rajah & Tann was much better than the other side. Our witnesses were better prepared. The [Rajah & Tann] partner did the key cross-examinations and was very good at revealing weaknesses in their testimony.”
Rajah & Tann Singapore LLP is one of the largest full service law firms in Singapore and South East Asia.
The Firm’s International Arbitration Practice is consistently ranked tops in Singapore and Asia by leading legal directories. Led by Andre Yeap, SC and anchored by leading arbitration practitioners, Lee Eng Beng, SC, Toh Kian Sing, SC, Francis Xavier, SC and Tan Chuan Thye, SC, our team is well respected for delivering quality service and providing clients with practical and effective solutions.
Our Practice comprises lawyers with multiple jurisdictional qualifications and they have been retained as advisors and counsel on numerous arbitrations conducted under the auspice of the leading arbitration institutions of the world; these include International Court of Arbitration of the ICC, London Court of International Arbitration, American Arbitration Association, Hong Kong International Arbitration Centre, Singapore International Arbitration Centre, China International Economic and Trade Arbitration Commission, Kuala Lumpur Regional Centre for Arbitration, Thai Arbitration Institute and Society of Maritime Arbitrators. Many of our lawyers are also appointees to the Panel of Arbitrators or Board of Directors of some of the arbitration institutions mentioned above and they sit regularly as arbitrators presiding over international / local arbitrations.
We have been involved in some of the largest and most complex international arbitrations in the region. We have also been involved in cases arising out of or conducted in diverse areas throughout Asia and Europe, including London, New York, Geneva, Singapore, Hong Kong, Thailand, Malaysia, Cambodia, Taiwan, Pakistan and the Philippines.
With an extensive legal network in Asia, we are well placed to deal with disputes across the region and work with leading local practitioners to support this extensive geographical coverage. We have also acted for or against various governments and government linked entities across the world, including Australia, Kazakhstan, Madagascar, Brunei, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand.
As a direct result of our client diversity, we possess an impressive level of working knowledge of many different applicable regional laws as well as various industries and businesses. We have led and worked on disputes in relation to:
- Corporate and commercial matters, such as complex cross border joint venture and shareholder disputes, banking, finance, insurance, regulatory, distributorship and employment disputes;
- Oil and gas matters (upstream and downstream);
- Energy and Resources matters, including power stations, power purchase and connection agreements;
- Telecommunications networks, infrastructure and sales;
- Infrastructure and civil engineering projects, such as airports, railways, ports, highways, suspension bridges, tunnels and sewerage systems;
- Building projects, including residential, industrial, mixed-development and commercial buildings; and
- Maritime and shipbuilding contracts.
Andre Yeap, SC
Head, International Arbitration Practice
T +65 6232 0306
Rajah & Tann Singapore LLP
9 Battery Road
#25-01 Straits Trading Building
T +65 6535 3600
F +65 6225 6528