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’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.


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.


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.


Gordon Dadds opens first overseas office in Hong Kong

Second-ever UK firm to go public recruits lawyers from London boutique for new office













Gordon Dadds, which last year became the second UK law firm to go public, has opened its first overseas office in Hong Kong.

The London-based firm has hired real estate lawyer Alan Ma to lead the Hong Kong office. He joins from his own practice, Maxwell Alves Solicitors, a boutique firm specialising in China-related commercial, real estate and immigration matters, which has now closed.


India becomes World’s Sixth Largest Economy

India became the world’s sixth largest economy recently. However, its economic outlook forecast was marginally reduced. In its continued effort to improve ease of doing business, India announced results of States and Union Territories’ performance in Ease of Doing Rankings. India also became home to the world’s largest mobile factory. The Government appointed committee released the draft personal data protection framework.

Ease of Doing Business Internal RankingsAndhra Pradesh is at the top of the list of States and Union Territories (UTs) ranked according to the ease of doing business, data put together by the World Bank and Department of Industrial Planning and Promotion, Ministry of Commerce and Industry  (DIPP), which was available earlier this month. Andhra Pradesh retained its spot in the second edition of the rankings, followed by Telangana, Haryana, Jharkhand and Gujarat rounding off the top five places. Parameters on which the States and UTs are ranked include reforms they’ve undertaken and the feedback from the government they’ve incorporated in their policies. The list categorised India’s 34 states and UTs into 4 categories – ‘Top achievers’, with a score of over 95% (9 states), ‘achievers’ with a score between 90-95% (6 states), ‘fast movers’ which had scored between 80-90% (3 states), and those with a score below 80% in the ‘aspirers’ category (18 states and UTs).

India World’s Sixth Largest EconomyUpdated World Bank figures for 2017 show that India is now the world’s sixth-biggest economy, having muscled past France, which was pushed to the seventh spot, news agency AFP reported on Wednesday. India’s gross domestic product (GDP) stood at $2.597 trillion at the end of 2017, compared to $2.582 trillion for France. The US continued to be the world’s biggest economy, followed by China, Japan and Germany. Britain remained the world’s fifth-biggest economy with a GDP of $2.622 trillion at the end of 2017.

IMF Marginally Reduces India’s Growth Forecast – In the World Economic Outlook Update, July 2018 released by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), India’s growth rate is expected to rise from 6.7 percent in 2017 to 7.3 percent in 2018 and 7.5 percent in 2019, as drags from the currency exchange initiative and the introduction of the goods and services tax fade. The projection is 0.1 and 0.3 percentage point lower for 2018 and 2019, respectively, than in the April 2018 World Economic Outlook (as reported by Asia Law Portal in April), reflecting negative effects of higher oil prices on domestic demand and faster-than-anticipated monetary policy tightening due to higher expected inflation.

World’s Largest Mobile Factory in India – Earlier this month, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and South Korean President Moon Jae-in inaugurated Samsung Electronics’ mobile phone factory in India – the largest in the world. The facility is spread over 35 acres in Noida, close to Delhi. The plant, estimated to be built at a cost of ₹ 4,500 crore, can produce 12 crore mobile phones every year and will create 15,000 local jobs. This is a huge thrust to Prime Minister Modi’s ‘Make in India’ initiative, which has become extremely effective for electronics sector (as reported by Asia Law Portal in December 2017)

Cabinet Approves Accession to WIPO treaties – The Union Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi has recently approved the proposal submitted by DIPP regarding accession to two World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) treaties i.e WIPO Copyright Treaty and WIPO Performers and Phonograms Treaty, which extends coverage of copyright to the internet and digital environment The approval is a step towards the objective laid in the National Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) Policy adopted by the Government in 2016 which aims to get value for IPRs through commercialization by providing guidance and support to EPR owners about commercial opportunities of e-commerce through Internet and mobile platforms.

Personal Data Protection Bill, 2018 – The Government of India had constituted a Committee of Experts in 2017 under the Chairmanship of former Supreme Court Justice Shri B N Srikrishna to study various issues relating to data protection in India and to propose a data protection framework (as reported by Asia Law Portal). Pursuant to that the Committee had prepared a white paper on various issues relating to data protection in India and had solicited public comments by January 2018 (as reported by Asia Law Portal in December 2017). The Committee submitted its report recently along with a draft Personal Data Protection Bill, 2018. The proposed law will have jurisdiction over the processing of personal data if such data has been used, shared, disclosed, collected or otherwise processed in India. However, in respect of processing by fiduciaries that are not present in India, the law shall apply to those carrying on business in India or other activities such as profiling which could cause privacy harms to data principals in India. Additionally, personal data collected, used, shared, disclosed or otherwise processed by companies incorporated under Indian law will be covered, irrespective of where it is actually processed in India. However, the data protection law may empower the Central Government to exempt such companies which only process the personal data of foreign nationals not present in India. The law will not have retrospective application and it will come into force in a structured and phased manner. Processing that is ongoing after the coming into force of the law would be covered. Timelines should be set out for notifications of different parts of the law to facilitate compliance.


Deloitte to Join Big 4 Legal Race in Singapore

Global accounting firm Deloitte has registered a foreign law practice in Singapore as it prepares to catch up to fellow Big Four auditors in the city-state’s legal market.

Within the past two weeks, both EY and PricewaterhouseCoopers announced plans to launch Singaporean law practices with ex-partners from prominent local firms.

Records from the Singapore Ministry of Law’s Legal Services Regulatory Authority showed that the auditor registered Deloitte Legal International Pte. Ltd. as a foreign law practice in April. The firm shares Deloitte Singapore‘s office address at the OUE Downtown building and is run by managing director Rashed Idrees. The firm lists projects, corporate and banking among its practice areas.

Idrees joined Deloitte in 2017 and is listed as a leader of the accounting firm’s legal arm in Thailand, according to its website. He was a partner with Southeast Asian law firm DFDL between 2010 and 2015 and oversaw practices in Bangladesh, Cambodia, Indonesia, and Singapore. Before that, he was a Singapore partner with legacy Deacons Australia and left the firm before it merged in 2010 into Norton Rose Fulbright.

Idrees, who is registered as a foreign lawyer in Singapore, focuses his practice on project development. In 2013, he gave Thai and Bangladeshi law advice to New York-based private equity firm SK Capital Partners and co-investors on their acquisition of three specialty chemical divisions of Swiss chemicals maker Clariant A.G.

Currently, PwC operates a foreign law practice in Singapore with former partners from Ashurst and Norton Rose Fulbright. EY ended its Singapore-based foreign law practice, which was led by former Herbert Smith Freehills partner John Dick, in 2016.

But both EY and PwC recently announced plans for new Singaporean law practices. EY said earlier this week it will form a new association with former Dentons Rodyk & Davidson senior partner Evelyn Ang, and PwC has recruited veteran WongPartnership partner Rachel Eng to help launch a new local law firm.