GAR 100 - 16th Edition

Wong Partnership

Wong Partnership

Professional notice

The Singapore firm has new mandates against Laos

People in Who’s Who Legal3
People in Future Leaders0
Pending cases as counsel125
Value of pending counsel workUS$17 billion
Treaty cases as counsel10
Third-party funded cases1
Current arbitrator appointments14 (10 as chair or sole)
Lawyers sitting as arbitrator7

This Singapore-based firm started life in 1992 as an 11-lawyer litigation boutique, Wong Meng Meng & Partners. 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 practice was anchored for a long time by the highly respected counsel and arbitrator Alvin Yeo SC before he passed away in 2022.

Since 2020, the litigation and dispute resolution group has been led by Sean Yu Chou. He sits as arbitrator and is on the roster of various arbitral institutions in the region, as well as being a member of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators. 

Swee Yen Koh SC leads the international arbitration practice. She is a former vice chair of the International Bar Association’s Arbitration Committee and serves as co-chair of the Inter-Pacific Bar Association’s dispute resolution and arbitration committee.

Other partners to know are Smitha Menon, who also heads the firm’s restructuring and insolvency and India practices; and Wendy Lin.


Besides its base in Singapore, the firm has offices in Shanghai and Yangon, and alliances with firms in Malaysia, the Philippines, Indonesia and the UAE.

Who uses it?

Prominent clients include Amazon, Repsol, Keppel Corporation, hospitality conglomerate Accor Asia Pacific and Malaysian media conglomerate Astro. It has represented various funds including L Capital, the private equity arm of Louis Vuitton.

In investor-state disputes, it has acted for gaming companies in a billion-dollar dispute with Laos; and for South African mining investors in a dispute with Lesotho. Papua New Guinea is a notable state client.

Track record

WongPartnership won a complete victory for Papua New Guinea in an ICSID case in 2015, persuading a tribunal chaired by Gary Born that the country’s investment promotion law did not provide consent to arbitrate. It marked the first time a Singaporean firm had appeared as sole counsel in an ICSID case. The state is using the firm again to defend another ICSID claim by a telecoms investor.

The firm has had a winning streak for South Korea’s Wemade in ICC cases over the licensing of an online videogame 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.

Besides arbitration wins, WongPartnership has had a hand in various precedent-setting decisions on arbitration in the Singapore courts. In 2016, it revived a jurisdictional award against Laos, affirming that a Chinese investment treaty extended to Macau.

Acting for companies owned by Thai businessman Nop Narongdej, the firm overturned a US$525 million portion of a pair of ICC awards in 2021 – also showing that an award of compound interest was contrary to Thai public policy. The underlying dispute concerns one of South Asia’s leading renewable energy companies.

Going further back, they helped the liquidator of a Philippine steel manufacturer overturn the bulk of a US$100 million SIAC award.

Recent events

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.

The firm helped Amazon obtain an emergency arbitrator order to restrain the sale – a decision that was later enforced in India. Future Group then failed to secure the early dismissal of the arbitration.

Singapore’s Keppel Corporation retained the firm for a SIAC claim against Singapore Press Holdings over the latter’s attempt to call off a proposed US$2.8 billion takeover.

The firm advised Repsol in a challenge to a set of awards holding it liable for fraud in a US$5.5 billion SIAC dispute with Sinopec. The Singapore International Commercial Court upheld the awards in early 2023, rejecting arguments that an arbitrator was biased.

The firm succeeded in partially annulling an ICC award against its client Danieli, an Italian steel plant supplier. The Singapore courts set aside a €39 million portion of the award after finding the tribunal had breached due process by adopting a “flexible approach” to proof of damage.

Despite its best efforts, the firm was unable to help gaming clients Lao Holdings and Sanum revive their billion-dollar treaty claim against Laos. The Singapore Court of Appeal rejected the companies’ final appeal in late 2022.

The firm has other mandates against Laos. It is advising coal mining company Thai-Lao in a US$450 million UNCITRAL claim against the state over a power plant project. Hong Kong client Byrich Holdings has also retained the firm for a new treaty dispute with Laos over the expropriation of a cement plant.

The firm welcomed Alessa Pang as a partner from Rajah & Tann.

Client comment

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 Lin “has impressed me since the first day we met with her fierce intelligence, creativity and clarity of thought”.

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 Singapore, 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.


Unlock unlimited access to all Global Arbitration Review content