Rajah & Tann
The firm’s new practice head was one of two new Senior Counsel appointed in Singapore in 2023
|People in Who’s Who Legal||1|
|Pending cases as counsel||100|
|Value of pending counsel work||US$51 billion|
|Treaty cases as counsel||0|
|Third-party funded cases||0|
|Current arbitrator appointments||18 (9 as chair or sole)|
|Lawyers sitting as arbitrator||8|
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, initially led by Yee Leong until he left with a team for Allen & Gledhill in 2013.
Following that, Andre Yeap SC led Rajah & Tann’s practice for the best part of a decade before being succeeded in 2022 by his deputy Kelvin Poon (now also SC). The team includes construction and projects head Soh Lip San, Sim Chee Siong and Avinash Pradhan, the new deputy head of the arbitration practice.
In addition to Yeap, the firm fields seven SCs, including Francis Xavier, who sits as arbitrator. Other names to know include Eri Hertiawan and newly minted partner Simon Barrie Sasmoyo, who jointly lead the firm’s team in Indonesia.
Rajah & Tann reckons it still has the largest stand-alone arbitration practice of any firm in Singapore, with approaching 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.
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 City and Hanoi. It also has affiliations with firms in Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia and Cambodia.
Who uses it?
The firm has advised 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 has also had metals and mining clients such as Sumitomo, Bhushan Power & Steel and Global Steel Philippines; and telecoms company AT&T. Other well-known clients are Kempinski Hotels, Singapore Airlines and AirAsia.
Government users have included 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.
Some of the firm’s most visible successes have come in the Singaporean courts. 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 Laos gaming conglomerate on the basis that the arbitrators wrongly chose Singapore and not Macao as the arbitral seat.
In 2012, Rajah & Tann landed 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. A big chunk of the award was later set aside, however.
A subsidiary Indonesia’s Lippo Group relied on the firm when it won a US$42 million SIAC award arising from a dispute over control of a Chinese hospital.
The firm helped Norwegian oil services company NOV Norway enforce an award against a local conglomerate in Singapore, even though the court found that it was issued in the name of a company that no longer exists.
Rajah & Tann continues to act for a conglomerate in a US$21 billion SIAC arbitration over alleged breaches of non-disclosure agreements.
The firm acted for a former government official in relation to a US$2.5 billion investment arbitration under the US-Vietnam trade agreement.
It is defending a Vietnamese state-owned company in an over US$3 billion SIAC arbitration over a thermal power plant project.
Bahamian oil company Perenco used the firm as it sought enforcement of its US$412 million ICSID award against Ecuador in Singapore.
It is acting for Germany-based COALORBIS in a US$12 million credit dispute with a Hong Kong trading company concerning the sale of Indonesian steam coal to China. It is working on a SIAC case concerning a supply contract for a Pakistani power plant, and another case at the centre between the partners of a private equity fund.
Poon was one of only two Senior Counsel appointments in Singapore at the start of 2023.
The firm brought in partner Vanina Sucharitkul, a Thai-French-US national who heads the Thailand branch of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators. Sucharitkul, who previously spent a decade at Herbert Smith Freehills, is initially working from Bangkok with a view to relocating to Singapore.
The firm promoted Sasmoyo and Daryl Sim to partner. Divyesh Menon joined as counsel from Mayer Brown. Partner Alessa Pang left for WongPartnership.
A client who was assisted by Yeap in an ICC case in Singapore praises his “vast experience”, adding that his insight and approach gave them “comfort and assurance”.
A user in an LCIA case says the firm’s construction disputes team is “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 Kelvin Poon, SC and Avinash Pradhan and anchored by leading arbitration practitioners, Andre Yeap, SC, 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 specialised 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