GAR 100 - 15th Edition

Rajah & Tann

Rajah & Tann

Professional notice

Counselling the Philippines and the Maldives

People in Who’s Who Legal1
People in Future Leaders0
Pending cases as counsel0
Value of pending counsel workUS$48.92 billion
Treaty cases as counsel4
Third-party funded cases0
Current arbitrator appointments16 (9 as chair or sole)
Lawyers sitting as arbitrator7

Founded in 1976, Rajah & Tann is one of Singapore’s leading full-service firms. The roots of the international arbitration practice go back to 1999, when Sundaresh Menon (later Singapore’s attorney general and now chief justice) and Chong Yee Leong worked on a case in Bangkok. Other cases swiftly followed and the pair worked on cases throughout Asia over the next four years.

The entire group moved laterally to Jones Day in 2003 but returned three years later with new international know-how and experience. At this point, Rajah & Tann created a stand-alone arbitration practice. This was initially led by Yee Leong until his departure with a team for Allen & Gledhilll in 2013.

Andre Yeap SC has led the practice since then, supported by recently promoted deputy head Kelvin Poon. Several partners in the practice are former law clerks or colleagues of Menon, including construction and projects head Soh Lip San, Sim Chee Siong and Avinash Pradhan.

In addition to Yeap, the firm fields six senior counsel, including Francis Xavier, who sits as arbitrator.

Rajah & Tann reckons it still has the largest stand-alone arbitration practice of any firm in Singapore, with around 20 partners working in the area. It claims to have handled over 600 arbitration matters in Asia and elsewhere since 2013. The firm says that not only is it the heaviest user of SIAC but also it has been involved in almost half the cases brought before the Singapore International Commercial Court (SICC).

It regards its main competitors for high-end and complex arbitration work not as other Singapore firms but rather as international firms in the UK and the US.

Network

Apart from Singapore, the firm has offices in Bangkok, Jakarta, Shanghai, Vientiane and Yangon.

A 2014 tie-up with a Vietnamese firm gave it offices in Ho Chi Minh, Hanoi and Da Nang. It also has affiliations with firms in Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia and Cambodia, as well as Al Tamimi & Company in the UAE.

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; Australia’s Thiess; and China Machine New Energy Corporation.

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. Other well-known clients are Kempinski Hotels, Singapore Airlines and Air Asia.

Government clients include Laos, Lesotho, Indonesia, the Philippines, Kazakhstan, the Maldives and Mauritius’s State Trading Corporation. It has also been appointed as legal adviser to the Chinese embassy in Singapore, advising on matters relating to the embassy itself as well as Chinese citizens and companies.

Track record

Some of the firm’s most visible successes have been at the set-aside and enforcement stage. It secured the first ever set-aside of an investment treaty award on the merits in Singapore, on behalf of its client Lesotho, in 2017.

It also overturned the enforcement of a US$200 million SIAC award against a Lao gaming conglomerate on the basis that the arbitrators wrongly chose Singapore and not Macao as the arbitral seat.

In 2012, Rajah & Tann secured a US$100 million SIAC award against the Philippine National Bank and several other financial institutions, on behalf of companies owned by Indian steel magnate Pramod Mittal. The award was partially upheld in the courts.

The firm helped a subsidiary of Indonesia’s Lippo group win a US$42 million SIAC award arising from a dispute over control of a Chinese hospital.

Recent events

Rajah & Tann is defending the Philippines against an ICC claim worth US$15 billion brought by Chevron and Shell over tax liabilities relating to an oil and gas concession.

It is also defending the Maldives against a US$130 million SIAC claim over a stalled joint venture to reclaim and develop islands and a lagoon. The SICC rejected a challenge to a jurisdictional award in favour of claimant Prime Capital in 2021.

The firm helped Norwegian oil services company NOV Norway enforce an award against a local conglomerate in the Singapore courts, even though the court found that it was issued in the name of a company that no longer exists.

Other clients include an Indian conglomerate in a US$21 billion SIAC arbitration over alleged breaches of non-disclosure agreements and a former official in a US$2.5 billion investment arbitration under the US–Vietnam trade agreement.

It also continues to represent Vedanta Resources in litigation filed by India relating to two investment treaty arbitrations worth a combined US$3 billion.

It is defending a Vietnamese state-owned company in a US$1 billion SIAC arbitration over a thermal power plant project. 

Other work has included an ad hoc arbitration against a South East Asian contractor, over the construction of an airport, and a SIAC arbitration under Cayman law between the partners of a private equity fund.

It has also been reported that the firm is defending a company that operates a special economic zone in Cambodia in a US$14 million arbitration brought by two subsidiaries of Singapore’s Asiatic Group relating to tariff revisions affecting a power plant.

The firm appointed Poon as deputy head of international arbitration, and Devathas Satianathan, Alessa Pang and Matthew Koh were promoted to the partnership.

Client comment

A client in an LCIA arbitration calls the firm’s “very competent” construction disputes team “diligent and good value for money”. They single out the “very good strategic thinker” Ng Kim Beng and also Pradhan, who “knows construction and construction law inside out”.

Another client says the firm is “proactive, solution-focused, diligent, and did an outstanding job preparing 10 inexperienced witnesses for the arbitration hearing”. They also praise the “very experienced and clear” Pradhan, as well as Tan Chuan Thye, who “provided outstanding advice and prepared witnesses very well”.

Rajah & Tann Singapore LLP is one of the largest full service law firms in Singapore and Southeast Asia with offices in Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam.

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, effective and even out of the box solutions.

Our Practice comprises lawyers with multiple jurisdictional qualifications who act as advisors, legal experts and counsel and in numerous international arbitrations conducted under the auspices of the world’s leading arbitration institutions, including the Permanent Court of Arbitration, 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, Asian International Arbitration Centre (formerly, Kuala Lumpur Regional Centre for Arbitration), Thai Arbitration Institute and Society of Maritime Arbitrators. Many of our lawyers are also on 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 arbitrations, whether seated within or outside Singapore.

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, America and Europe, including London, New York, Geneva, Singapore, Japan, India, China, Hong Kong, Thailand, Malaysia, Cambodia, Taiwan, Pakistan and the Philippines.

With an extensive legal network in Asia, we are particularly well placed to deal with disputes across the region and work with leading local practitioners to support this extensive geographical coverage. We are also active in the sphere of investor-state disputes and have separately represented investor interest and state interest, having acted for or against various governments and government linked entities across the world, including Australia, Philippines, Maldives, Kazakhstan, India, Madagascar, Brunei, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand.

As a direct result of our client and case 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 various specialized areas, including:

  • 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;
  • Maritime and shipbuilding contracts; and
  • Coal, minerals, forestry, water and oil concessions

Contact Partner

Get unlimited access to all Global Arbitration Review content