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Desmond Liaw

Partner

I specialise in complex commercial and civil litigation, with emphasis on areas such as corporate-related disputes, board room disputes, contractual disputes, financial services-related disputes, employment, fraud, trust and professional negligence. My other area of speciality is in insolvency and bankruptcy. With more than two decades of experience, I deliver effective and practical solutions to clients.

 

Originally from Malaysia and having obtained my education in Australia, I am admitted as a solicitor in Hong Kong, NSW (Australia) and Malaysia.

I specialise in complex litigation, insolvency and employment with over two decades of experience.  Apart from these areas of speciality, I have extensive experience in white-collar crime and regulatory investigations such as the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) investigations, and have represented clients in investigations and prosecutions by the Hong Kong Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) and the Commercial Crimes Bureau (CCB) of the Hong Kong Police. I also have experienced in Securities Futures Commission matters, regularly advising individual clients in investigations by the regulator.

In the 2020/21 Legal 500, I was quoted as ‘thorough but at the same time always keeps an eye on the big picture and overall strategy to advance the client’s case‘ and ‘responsive and knowledgeable’. Sources have also said, ‘Desmond Liaw is an excellent lawyer who is very knowledgeable in the area of litigation. He is approachable and is easily accessible and his advice is well analysed and always practical. He is highly recommended’.

Career Highlights

Dispute Resolution & Regulatory Matters

  • Representing a HKSE listed Chinese securities brokerage firm in a number of substantial claims against individuals (some, Chairman of HKSE listed companies) for margin defaults to the tune of several hundred million dollars in each case
  • Representing an investor in a HKD330 million claim against the former Chairman of a HKSE listed company in bankruptcy proceedings and HKIAC arbitration
  • Representing a French investor in an enforcement of a USD30 million French judgment against a well-known French individual with business interests in Hong Kong and Indonesia
  • Representing a MNC against its former employee for recovery of significant funds misappropriated from the company, which recently resulted in a criminal conviction and imprisonment term of 15 years for the employee, the highest ever in Hong Kong history for a theft offence
  • Representing an individual in an application to set aside a HKD60 million statutory demand issued by a subsidiary of a HKSE listed company which is now in liquidation
  • Represented victims of email frauds and related recoveries, including in a complex but potential landmark case against a Money Service Operator in respect of proprietary claim and personal claims
  • Representing a defendant to an unfair prejudice/winding-up petition instituted by the eldest son of a successful, well-regarded businessman in oil and gas against, among others, his brothers
  • Represented members of the family of a shipping magnate in the 20th century in a bitter family dispute involving around USD600-800 million
  • Represented Asia Television Limited (ATV – oldest TV station in Asia) on a multi-million dollars breach of contract claim
  • Advised and represented a household brand name against its former director for diversion of business to the tune of several hundreds of million dollars
  • Advised and represented a number of clients on covert raids by various authorities (CCB, ICAC and SFC) and dealing with the authorities on legal professional privilege issues; represented clients in SFC investigations
  • Represented parties to a complex shareholders dispute that concerned the famous KU DE TA bar on the rooftop of the Singapore Marina Bay Sands
  • Represented eSun Holdings Limited and its directors in a breach of fiduciary duties and derivative action brought by Passport Special Opportunities Master Fund, LP in which judgment in favour of eSun and its directors was handed down in June 2011. The decision will have an important bearing on directors’ duties, especially in the context of raising funds for the company
  • Advised a large multi-national health care manufacturer on FCPA issues and conducted internal investigations
  • Represented investors against several major financial institutions on mis-selling cases
  • Represented clients in SFC investigations

Employment

  • Advising and representing clients, both employers (often, common household names) and employees, on contentious and non-contentious employment matters ranging from pre-employment to post-employment issues, including working on a number of employment-related projects (e.g. redundancy of employees worldwide, standardising employment contracts, employee handbooks and policies across offices in multiple jurisdictions, etc.), conducting internal investigations and disciplinary proceedings
  • Representing a listed company on a very substantial misappropriation of funds by a former employee matter, which is also cross-border (Macau, China and Australia)
  • Representing employers on discrimination complaints by employees to the Equal Opportunities Commission, and employment claims brought in the Labour Tribunal and Courts
  • Represented Helm Hong Kong Limited, a subsidiary of a large multi-national chemicals and pharmaceutical company with headquarters in Germany, in multiple litigations against the former managing director and a former employee. The complex litigations involve claims for fraud and breaches of fiduciary duties, in addition to breaches of duties as an employee

Insolvency & Restructuring

  • Representing the liquidators of China Lumena New Materials Corp. in a very substantial, multi-billion auditors negligence claim against a large international accounting firm
  • Assisted in Winsway Enterprises Holdings Ltd’s restructuring
  • Represented liquidators of a failed fund including obtaining local order for recognition of and assistance to foreign liquidators
  • Advised the liquidator of Lehman Brothers Japan on claims involving complex derivatives products
  • Advised ATV on its scheme of arrangement
  • Advised Steering Committee of Stereo Ltd’s scheme of arrangement
  • Advised and represented the Executor of the estate of Lim Por Yen (founder of the Lai Sun Group) and in the liquidation of Highfit Investments Limited
  • Represented the liquidators of the Incorporated Owners of Casio Mansion (in liquidation) throughout the liquidation process, which involved issues connected to the Building Management Ordinance as well
  • Represented the petitioner in the winding-up proceedings against Wing Fai Construction and in the application for appointment of provisional liquidators to the company in 2002. The liquidation of Wing Fai Construction subsequently generated a number of court decisions, some were landmark decisions