Withers Recruits Disputes Partners in Hong Kong, Singapore

Soo Khim Keoy and two associates join the Hong Kong office from Baker McKenzie, while Amarjit Kaur joins Withers KhattarWong in Singapore from Morgan Lewis Stamford.

 

Withers has hired dispute resolution partners in Hong Kong and Singapore, hiring them away from Baker McKenzie and Morgan Lewis.

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Ex-regulator launches Japanese antitrust boutique

Tsuyoshi Ikeda, a former investigator for Japan Fair Trade Commission (JFTC), has left Japanese Big Four law firm Mori Hamada & Matsumoto to start an antitrust and consumer protection boutique called Ikeda & Someya.

During his time at the JFTC, Ikeda participated in around 20 dawn raids, prepared the implementation of the leniency system and investigated a case involving standard-essential patents.

At Mori Hamada, where Ikeda was a counsel, he worked on cartel, merger review, and other types of antitrust/competition cases. Earlier, he was an associate attorney at Oh-Ebashi LPC & Partners.

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Sidley, Debevoise star in China Re’s $950 mln acquisition of Chaucer

Sidley Austin has advised China Reinsurance Group (China Re) on its $950 million acquisition of Chaucer Insurance, a unit of Hanover Insurance Group that underwrites risks at insurance market Lloyd’s, with Debevoise & Plimpton advising the seller.

According to Reuters, China Reinsurance will fund the deal to buy Chaucer with $865 million in cash and $85 million in dividends from the unit. In a statement, Hanover said that sale of Chaucer would reduce its catastrophe and tail risk exposure and improve long-term operating return-on-equity potential.

The Sidley team was led by London-based partner Martin Membery and Beijing-based partner Henry Ding.

The Debevoise team was led by London-based partner Jeremy Hill.  The transaction is expected to close late this year or in the first quarter of next year, subject to the approvals from the general meeting of China Re and domestic and foreign regulators.

INDIA

India’s HSA absorbs four-lawyer Bengaluru boutique

Indian law firm HSA Advocates has taken over four-lawyer Bengaluru-based firm Atman Law Partners, which is led by partner Chinmay Mirji. Atman’s practice areas include corporate, litigation and real estate.

Mirji, who will become a partner at HSA, specialises in negotiations and transaction advisory roles, and incorporate, M&A and investment transactions.

HSA has offices in New Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, and Bengaluru. The Bengaluru office was opened in 2016.

Dentons adds Malaysia’s Zain to its global network

Thirty-lawyer Malaysian firm Zain & Co. has become a member of Dentons. The firm joins existing Dentons member firms in Myanmar and Singapore to form the newly established Dentons ASEAN Region.

The 13-partner Zain was established in 1970. Led by managing partner Zain Azlan Zain Azahari, its key practice areas are banking and finance, corporate, dispute resolution, real estate, and intellectual property. It has also established a number of new practice areas, including cybersecurity, blockchain technology, IP litigation, high net worth Islamic estate planning, and film and media. Zain has been part of Dentons’ NextLaw referral network since last year. ”

The launch today of our expansion in Malaysia with one of the best firms there will help us build on our currently strong South East Asia presence,” said Philip Jeyaretnam SC, Dentons’ global vice-chair and ASEAN CEO, in a statement.

Dentons, which operates as a Swiss verein, now has a presence in 74 countries globally and it is currently finalising a combination with Indonesia’s Hanafiah Ponggawa & Partners.

Singapore

Pinsent Masons lands energy partner in Singapore from HSF

Pinsent Masons has expanded its energy resources and infrastructure practice with the appointment of Brian Scott as corporate partner in Singapore from Herbert Smith Freehills.

Scott, who focuses on oil and gas, spent 14 years with Herbert Smith Freehills, including seven years at the firm’s associated firm in Indonesia, Hiswara Bunjamin Tandjung. He will be relocating to Perth in 2019, but still covering the Asia-Pacific region.

Scott’s arrival takes the total number of partners at Pinsent Masons’ Singapore office to 13. Its joint law venture firm in Singapore, Pinsent Masons MPillay, has an additional three partners.

Global law firms in Myanmar get a reality check

Since 2013, more than a dozen international and regional law firms have opened offices in Yangon, Myanmar’s largest city. But now, as the country faces international condemnation over the Rohingya crisis and the jailing of journalists, momentum is moving in the other direction.

Myanmar has not lived up to the expectations of Big Law.

K&L Gates gets regulatory approval for Singapore merger

K&L Gates is the latest global law firm to receive a regulatory green light to merge with a local firm in Singapore.

The U.S. firm’s Singapore office and local firm Straits Law Practice have obtained approval from the Singapore Legal Services Regulatory Authority to combine as K&L Gates Straits Law in the city-state. Pending agreement from partners at both firms, the merger is expected to take effect on Jan. 1 of next year.

“The combined talents and resources of our lawyers in Singapore will allow us to seamlessly serve both local and international clients in Singapore and in the region,” said K&L Gates Asia managing partner David Tang and Straits Law managing director N. Sreenivasan in a joint statement.

The combination will enable K&L Gates to advise clients on all aspects of Singaporean law. The city-state has allowed for foreign and local law firms to merge since 2012 but so far there have only been two completed deals. In the more recent one, Eversheds Sutherland merged its Singapore outpost with local firm Harry Elias Partnership last year; and in a first-of-its-kind deal, Morgan, Lewis & Bockius combined with local firm Stamford Law Corp. in 2015, although the Philadelphia-based firm did not have an existing Singapore office at the time of the merger.

Straits Law is the product of a series of mergers of smaller Singaporean firms, including most recently in 2016 with insurance boutique M Rama Law Corp. Sreenivasan, a litigation and arbitration specialist, has led the firm since 2003; he had been with one of the predecessor firms since 1990 after a five-year stint as a government lawyer.

The 17-director Singaporean firm specializes in disputes work, including corporate litigation, arbitration and white-collar defense. The firm also has a strong India practice, led by firm executive chairman M Rajaram.

Under Singaporean law, the combination will take the form of a venture in which K&L Gates can take one-third or less of the merged office’s equity. But unlike the other existing options for foreign firms to access local law ability, such as the Formal Law Alliance, the two firms will be financially integrated in Singapore.

So far, most U.S. firms, including K&L Gates, have operated in Singapore as foreign law practices without the ability to advise on local law. The exceptions, aside from Morgan Lewis, include Latham & Watkins, Norton Rose Fulbright, White & CaseGibson, Dunn & Crutcher, Jones Day and Sidley Austin, all of which, alongside the Magic Circle’s Allen & Overy, Clifford Chance and Linklaters, are under the so-called Qualifying Foreign Law Practice scheme.

The QFLP license only allows foreign firms to practice a limited range of Singaporean law, mostly related to corporate and securities transactions; areas such as litigation and conveyancing are off limits. In addition, QFLPs are subject to strict assessment on their financial performance in Singapore by the government.

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Quinn Emanuel Expands Tokyo Office With Finnegan Hire

Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan has hired an intellectual property litigation partner in Tokyo.

York Faulkner joins from IP specialist firm Finnegan, Henderson, Farabow, Garrett & Dunner where he was most recently a partner based in Reston, Virginia. An experienced trial lawyer, Faulkner has litigated high-stakes cases in jury and bench trials before federal and state courts. Fluent in Japanese, he regularly represents Japanese companies on U.S. litigation and is experienced in coordinating with Japanese lawyers on co-pending litigation.

Faulkner had been with Finnegan since 1996 when he left the U.S. Department of Justice, where he had begun his career as a criminal prosecutor in the tax department. He regularly worked out of Finnegan’s Tokyo office.

Quinn Emanuel opened in Tokyo in 2007 after acquiring three-lawyer IP boutique Koda & Androlia in Los Angeles. The firm then sent partners Henry Koda and Ryan Goldstein to be based in Tokyo. Koda left to join DLA Piper in 2010, Goldstein, a Japanese-speaking patent litigator, has led the office since then. The firm had been looking for the right addition to the Tokyo office for a while, according to managing partner John Quinn.

“Our Tokyo office works with Japanese clients on a wide range of matters, from intellectual property lawsuits to arbitration to government investigations—all in Japanese,” Goldstein said in a statement. “[Faulkner’s] practice fits perfectly with what we are doing in Japan and we are looking forward to expanding what we do.”

In addition to Goldstein and Faulkner, Washington, D.C.-based Dawn Yamane Hewett, an arbitration of counsel, also advises on Japan-related matters.

BMW Turns To Korea’s Kim & Chang in Car Fire Cases

German carmaker BMW has tapped South Korea’s largest law firm, Kim & Chang, to respond to a series of lawsuits in the country following dozens of engine fire incidents.

BMW owners have filed at least two joint lawsuits at the Seoul Central District Court against the company, demanding $4,500 in damages per owner, according to South Korean news agency Yonhap. More suits and complaints are expected to be submitted in coming weeks.

Since January this year, about 40 BMW vehicles’ engines went up in flames, In July, the German luxury car maker’s Korea unit announced that starting Aug. 20 the company would recall 106,317 diesel vehicles, particularly the 520d model sedan, that has been involved in the most fires. No deaths or injuries have been reported over the fires.

On Tuesday, South Korea’s transport ministry issued an order to ban the use of 27,246 BMW vehicles that have not received safety inspections. The driving ban, the first-ever of its kind in the country, is intended to speed safety checks, not as a punitive action against the owners, the ministry said.

BMW has identified the root cause of the fires as defects in the vehicles’ exhaust recirculation system, which is designed to reduce nitrogen oxide emissions in order to meet emissions requirements. The South Korean government is conducting a separate probe into the fires.

Jason Ha, a partner at Seoul-based Barun Law, is representing the two groups of plaintiffs in the joint lawsuits. Before joining the Korean firm in 2012, Ha was president of the strategy and planning division of Korean conglomerate Hyundai Group from 2008 to 2011. He also served as senior counsel of the company’s car making affiliate Hyundai Motor Co. from 1986 to 1995.

Kim & Chang, which is representing BMW, declined to comment. Last year, the firm successfully defended BMW against false advertising allegations brought by the Korea Fair Trade Commission.

South Korea, unlike the United States, does not permit class actions and each claimant must file an individual case, except for damages arising from securities transactions. Legal expenses for the BMW fire cases have varied, with law firms being paid between $1,000 plus a five percent contingency fee to initial fees of about $1.3 million, according to business newspaper Hankyung.