GAR 100 - 12th Edition

Rajah & Tann

Professional notice

Secured another win for Lesotho in Singaporean courts

People in Who's Who Legal1
People in Future Leaders1
Pending cases as counsel100+
Value of pending counsel workUS$34.7 billion+
Treaty cases0
Third-party funded cases0
Current arbitrator appointments14 (6 as chair or sole)
Lawyers sitting as arbitrator8

Rajah & Tann, founded in 1976, is one of Singapore’s leading full-service firms. The roots of the international arbitration practice go back to 1999, when Sundaresh Menon (who went on to become Singapore’s attorney general and is now 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 team returned around 2006, 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.

There was further upheaval in 2013 as Chong and four other partners left to join rival Singaporean firm Allen & Gledhill. But the firm moved swiftly to fill their shoes, 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 around 20 partners working on the area. It has expanded, thanks in no small part to the Singaporean government’s drive to make the city-state an international arbitration hub in 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.

Network

Apart from Singapore, the firm has offices in Bangkok, Jakarta, Shanghai and Vientiane. It has recently added an office in Yangon.

A 2014 tie-up with Vietnamese firm LCT Lawyers gave it offices in Ho Chi Minh, Hanoi and Da Nang. It also has affiliations with firms in Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia, Cambodia, and 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, and other well-known clients are Kempinski Hotels, Singapore Airlines and Air Asia.

Government clients include Laos, Lesotho, Indonesia, the Philippines, Kazakhstan 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

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 set aside by the Singapore High Court in 2014 but partly reinstated a year later.

The firm settled a series of disputes worth a combined US$8 billion in 2015 for the owners of an Indonesian goldmine.

Rajah & Tann has brought in wins for a Thai public company in arbitration with Singapore and Indonesian entities under 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.

In 2016, the firm persuaded the Singapore High Court to set aside a SIAC award against its client, an Indian trader of palm oil, for breach of natural justice because the case had been decided on the basis of arguments raised only 10 minutes before the end of the arbitration hearing.

Recent events

After winning Lesotho the first ever set-aside of an investment treaty award on the merits in Singapore in August 2017 Rajah & Tann, working with Sam Wordsworth QC, was more recently successful in having that decision upheld. The UNCITRAL award had held Lesotho liable for acquiescing in the closure of a southern African regional court that had been hearing a US$200 million expropriation claim by a group of South African mining investors. After successfully defending the set aside decision the tribunal hearing a second, Mauritius-seated arbitration brought by some of the same mining investors against Lesotho will have to decide whether its mandate has been terminated.

Other success came persuading the Singapore High Court to exempt a group of minors from the enforcement of a US$550 million ICC award against Indian brothers Malvinder and Shivinder Mohan Singh and others. The minors argued that the award, held by Japanese drug maker Daiichi Sankyo, had wrongly made them liable for the fraudulent actions of their guardian. The award was upheld against the adult and corporate sellers, who were represented by WongPartnership.

The firm had less luck securing a set aside for China Machine New Energy Corp before the Singapore High Court, which rejected its client’s petition. The US$149 million ICC award was issued in favour of a subsidiary of Houston-based energy company AEI in 2015, a proceeding in which Rajah & Tann was not involved.

Rajah & Tann is defending the Philippines in an ICC arbitration arising from the state’s demand for US$3 billion in back taxes from subsidiaries of Shell and Chevron. The oil majors filed the claim in 2017 following the tax demand and the dispute has also given rise to an ICSID arbitration in which Rajah & Tann is not involved.

The firm has also been acting for the Philippines in an UNCITRAL dispute – seated in Singapore and administered by the Permanent Court of Arbitration – with water utility Maynilad. In 2017, the tribunal hearing the arbitration issues a US$67 million partial final award in favour of Maynilad which was upheld by the Singapore High Court a year later following a challenge from the state. 

A new instruction has come from Australian casino operator Donaco International in a US$120 million SIAC claim against a former Thai business partner. Donaco alleges the business partner breached a non-compete agreement after selling it a casino by running his own gambling operation next door and another concealed in a supermarket.

The firm is also acting for Masan Group, one of Vietnam’s biggest private resource companies, in two parallel SIAC arbitrations worth in excess of US$100 million concerning a mining project in the country.

Rajah & Tann could not prevent enforcement of a US$270 million SIAC award against client ST Group by Sanum Investments, its former partner in three slot-machine clubs in Laos.

Thea Raman and Kevin Tan were both appointed to the partnership in 2018. Raman has particular experience of construction, projects and infrastructure disputes while Tan has a broad practice which includes commercial litigation.

Rajah & Tann Singapore LLP is one of the largest full service law firms in Singapore and South East 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 S’pore. 

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

Andre Yeap, SC
Head, International Arbitration Practice
[email protected]
T +65 6232 0306

Rajah & Tann Singapore LLP
9 Straits View, Marina One West Tower, #06-07 
Singapore 018937
T +65 6535 3600

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