SINGAPORE (Reuters) - UK legal giant Clifford Chance LLP had issued misleading statements about the scope of work it could provide in Singapore, Law Minister K Shanmugam said in parliament, in a rare rebuke to the one of the world’s biggest law firms.
Clifford Chance had in press releases dated December 11, 2012 and July 8, 2013 “conveyed an inaccurate picture” of its services by indicating it could provide local litigation advice, Shanmugam said on Monday in reply to a query from a lawmaker on what foreign law firms can and cannot do in the city-state.
Many international law firms use Singapore as a base to support the thousands of multinationals and banks operating here. While they are allowed to help Singapore-based clients draft contracts and engage in arbitration, some areas such as litigation in Singapore courts are off-limits.
Officials from the law ministry had already spoken to Clifford Chance’s partners about the statements, Shanmugam said.
A check by Reuters showed the UK law firm’s website had amended its July 8 statement on October 18 to clarify that local litigation representation would be provided through Singapore’s Cavenagh Law LLP.
The December 2012 statement has also been removed from the website.
When contacted by Reuters, Clifford Chance said its formal law alliance (FLA) with Singapore litigation boutique, Cavenagh Law LLP, allows the two firms to provide the broadest range of services from one platform called Clifford Chance Asia.
“The FLA, approved by the Ministry of Law and the Attorney-General’s Chambers, has at all times fully complied with all applicable regulations and will continue to do so,” it said.
International law firms operating in Singapore rely on local law firms to litigate cases, and Shanmugam said they should not rely on “clever word play” to indicate otherwise.
“We will also not condone arrangements where the SLP (Singapore law practice) is for all intents and purposes a proxy... All collaborations must comply with the spirit as well as the letter of the law,” the Singapore law minister said.
Reporting by Kevin Lim; Editing by Ryan Woo
Source : http://uk.reuters.com/article/uk-cliffordchance-singapore-idUKBRE99K08K20131021