London-headquartered law firm, Herbert Smith Freehills (HSF) has announced the expansion of its Southeast Asia-focussed dispute services, through the recruitment of Daniel Chia and his legal team.
The new, commercial dispute-focussed hires will join Prolegis, the firm with which HSF established a Formal Law Alliance (FLA) in 2015, to build the practice’s inaugural litigation services capability from April. Chia is set to onboard first, while his team of three lawyers, Jonathan Tang, Yanguang Ker and Charlene Wee, will follow in May as directors and associate respectively, subject to regulatory approvals.
According to LinkedIn, the team joins from the Singapore base of rival US-headquartered law firm, Morgan Lewis, where Chia served an eight-year tenure as partner across the firm’s litigation, regulatory and investigations effort. At Prolegis, he will work closely with the HSF Southeast Asian disputes team, led by Alastair Henderson.
A spokesperson for HSF elaborated on Chia’s reputation as one of the region’s top litigators who regularly appears before the Singapore High Court. Among other successes, she pointed to his efforts in acting for a class of 21 investors to recover their commitments to a failed Global Infrastructure Partners (GIP) fund worth approximately S$ 45 million ($33.77 million); and his representation of defendants in respect of a multi-million cryptocurrency fiat exchange agreement.
Speaking to FinanceAsia about the themes set to set the tone across corporate litigation in Southeast Asia across the remainder of 2023, Gitta Satryani, a HSF partner who specialises in complex cross-border disputes and international arbitration, highlighted insolvency processes and restructurings around crypto-related businesses, as well as industry consolidation and new market entrants, in light of current market turmoil.
“[We will see] M&A disputes arising from failed or aborted transactions as parties change their mind and try to exit using available contractual levers,” she told FA.
Chia added that due to much misfeasance on the back of the Covid-19 pandemic, there has been an increase in commercial fraud and related matters, as a result of the breach of director duties.
“[This,] coupled with the current economic client of higher interest rates and financing costs, means we should see a lot more disputes relating to investments and asset portfolios,” he told FA.
Discussing Singapore’s prominence in the region as a digital innovation centre, Chia said that the market has established itself as a key venue for resolving digital asset disputes and this too, will likely experience an uptick in activity over coming months.
“The [Singaporean] courts are progressive and adaptable to translate common law principles into the new commercial reality,” he shared.
The announcement detailed the team’s recruitment as marking ten partner-level hires in just over 12 months across HSF and its network of associated firms in Southeast Asia. In October, the firm bolstered its Indonesian practice with the recruitment of Prawidha (Wida) Murti at its Hiswara Bunjamin & Tandjung associate firm in Jakarta, and in September, the law firm hired Nonnabhat (Niab) Paiboon in Bangkok.
In total in Asia, HSF has 28 partners across six countries and through alliance firms, in three. Last month, the law firm launched an Australian arbitration hub to support its Asia-wide practice.