Aided Amazon in thwarting a high-profile asset sale in India
|People in Who’s Who Legal||4|
|Pending cases as counsel||102|
|Value of pending counsel work||US$16 billion|
|Treaty cases as counsel||6|
|Third-party funded cases||1|
|Current arbitrator appointments||18 (10 as chair or sole)|
|Lawyers sitting as arbitrator||6|
WongPartnership started life in 1992 as specialist litigation firm Wong Meng Meng & Partners, comprising a dozen lawyers. Two years later, it merged with a corporate practice and became WongPartnership.
Today, it has more than 300 lawyers and is one of Singapore’s largest firms. It handles domestic and international arbitrations and prides itself on taking on matters with no relation to Singapore. This is particularly true in the investment arbitration sphere, where it is increasingly visible.
The firm’s 60-strong international arbitration practice is led by Alvin Yeo SC, a respected arbitrator and counsel. Yeo is a member of the SIAC Court of Arbitration and the ICC commission on arbitration.
Another partner to know is Koh Swee Yen, who works on some of the group’s highest-profile cases and was recently appointed as senior counsel in Singapore.
The dispute resolution group is led by Chou Sean Yu.
In addition to Singapore, WongPartnership has an office in Shanghai and opened its first office in Myanmar in 2014. It has alliances with firms in Malaysia, the Philippines, Indonesia and the UAE.
Who uses it?
Clients to note include Amazon, Keppel, videogame developer WeMade, and international hospitality conglomerate Accor Asia Pacific. Others include Malaysian media conglomerate Astro, Hyundai Steel Company, Fullerton Bay, Banyan Tree Holdings and Jinko Solar. It has represented various funds including L Capital, the private equity arm of Louis Vuitton, in several disputes.
As for investor-state work, it has acted for gaming companies in a billion-dollar dispute with Laos over a casino and for South African mining investors in a dispute with Lesotho. Papua New Guinea is a notable state client.
Papua New Guinea retained the firm for an ICSID case and was rewarded with a complete victory in 2015 when a tribunal chaired by Gary Born ruled that the country’s investment promotion law didn’t provide a freestanding consent to arbitrate. It marked the first time a Singaporean firm had appeared as sole counsel in an ICSID case (Clifford Chance was on the other side).
WongPartnership has been part of various precedent-setting cases about arbitration in the Singapore courts. In 2016, it revived a jurisdictional award in a billion-dollar UNCITRAL arbitration against Laos. The case attracted much commentary because of its implications for some 130 Chinese investment treaties.
More recently, there was a triumph for Thai client Nop Narongdej before the Singapore Court of Appeal, which annulled a set of ICC awards worth over US$700 million rendered against his wind energy companies. The awards were obtained by a former business associate who fled Thailand following a military coup and was granted political asylum in France.
Working alongside two Indian firms, WongPartnership has been acting for Amazon in a high-profile SIAC claim against India’s Future Group to block the US$3.4 billion sale of its retail business to Reliance Industries. It helped Amazon obtain an emergency arbitrator order to restrain the sale. At the time of writing, Future Group has scrapped the deal, but Amazon is reportedly planning to continue with the arbitration.
The firm is acting for Singapore conglomerate Keppel Corporation in a SIAC claim against Singapore Press Holdings over the latter’s attempt to call off a proposed US$2.8 billion takeover.
WongPartnership has enjoyed a winning streak for South Korean videogame developer WeMade in ICC cases over the licensing of an online role-playing game series, The Legend of MIR 2. The firm secured a win on liability in one case and is now pursuing a US$700 million damages claim. It secured awards in two earlier arbitrations collectively worth close to US$140 million. WeMade is also using the firm in a SIAC dispute over follow-up title The Legend of MIR 3.
Coal mining company Thai-Lao Lignite is using the firm for a US$450 million UNCITRAL claim against Laos over a power plant project after a prior award was set aside by the Malaysian courts.
It is also acting for a leading multinational energy company in Singapore court proceedings to set aside partial awards rendered in a SIAC arbitration involving claims of US$5.5 billion.
In 2021, four senior associates – Alvin Lim, Daniel Liu, Lin Chunlong and Zhuang Wenxiong – were promoted to partner. Piyush Prasad joined the firm as counsel from the Singapore International Arbitration Centre.
Partner Melvin Lum left the firm after 13 years to join Quahe Woo & Palmer in Singapore.
Angela Chow, CEO of Hong Kong’s Cachet Group, used the firm for a case over a blockchain-related investment and says its work was “nothing short of excellent”.
She says partner Wendy Lin “has impressed me since the first day we met with her fierce intelligence, creativity and clarity of thought”. Chow calls her “a first-class advocate” who “more than held her own against a very senior silk” and “even managed to make the worst aspects of our case seem reasonably good”.
Edmund Chan, general counsel for ExxonMobil in Singapore, praises the firm’s “good strategic thinking and quick grasp of the details”. The price was reasonable in light of the quality of the work, he adds.
Our International Arbitration Practice is one of the largest in the region, with capabilities in commercial, financial, and investor-state arbitrations seated anywhere in the world and under all major arbitration rules, including AIAC, CIETAC, DIAC, HKIAC, ICC, LCIA, SIAC and UNCITRAL.
We lead the pack in Asia's top arbitration hub. Our lawyers have acted in some of the most significant arbitrations in the region, almost all investor-state arbitration disputes to have come before the Singapore Courts, and recorded the first ever win for a Singapore law firm in an ICSID arbitration. We continue to shape tomorrow's arbitration practice through key appointments in prominent organisations, arbitration courts, and thought leadership committees worldwide.
We draw on the expertise and experience of our 60 strong arbitration team to conceptualise and develop effective and innovative strategies that are implemented with the highest standards. Our deep bench has seen us consistently ranked in every international legal journal. Our approach of leaving no stone unturned in our delivery of the best and most cost-effective result at every step of the way continues to secure us mandates in the most complex and cutting-edge of matters. We focus on success beyond winning the arbitration, to procuring meaningful outcomes in terms of efficient enforcement of awards and the preservation of valuable commercial relationships for our clients.