February 21, 2017

Chairman of RHT Rajan Menon Foundation Tan Chong Huat shares with The Business Times that “One of the main tenets of RHT’s belief is that when we do well, we must do good”

RHT Rajan Menon Foundation was featured in The Business Times article titled “Doing well, doing good”. The article was first published in The Business Times on 16 February 2017. It was also published in The Business Times Wealth Magazine February 2017 Edition. Doing well, doing good Source: The Business Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Date: 16 Feb 2017 Author: Genevieve Cua Veteran lawyer Rajan Menon was about to retire from KhattarWong, after a career spanning three decades, when the idea to found a law firm took fire. He hosted some colleagues at his home and turned to his wife. “I asked, should I be doing this at this age? She was perceptive. She said, your colleagues have fire in their belly.” To his astonishment, nearly 100 people – 49 lawyers and 50 employees – resigned from KhattarWong to join the new firm even as the founding partners were scrambling to secure premises. RHTLaw Taylor Wessing, which started in 2011, broke even within its first month of operation. Today it boasts core legal services in the areas of banking, corporate and intellectual property advisory, among others. It even offers a slew of ancillary services, such as Big Data and compliance solutions, corporate secretarial, media and family office services. A good part of the drive to succeed may be traced to Mr Menon’s firm admonition to the firm’s partners at the outset. “I told my colleagues two things. One is to never forget what the staff did. They have mortgages, families, household budgets. To resign from a place where you were employed to move to an unknown quantity – most people don’t realise how important those big moves are. I told my partners – we should remember this, cherish it and develop the company from there. “The second thing is that one of our cornerstones must be that we need to reach out to the unfortunate, the ones who are deprived and need help.” Thus the idea of setting up a foundation to formalise the firm’s giving took root. Says RHT partner and cofounder Tan Chong Huat: “We felt we had to give back to society. One of the main tenets of our beliefs is that when we do well, we must do good. Instead of CSR (corporate social responsibility) on an ad hoc basis, we wanted to do it through a foundation in a more focused fashion.” Planning for the RHT Rajan Menon Foundation began in 2013 and it was incorporated in 2015. Mr Tan is the foundation’s chairman and associate professor Ho Peng Kee its patron. The foundation was recently registered as a Grant-making Philanthropic Organisation. This means it is able to issue tax deduction receipts to its donors. Mr Tan says: “The vision of the foundation is to establish and encourage a philanthropic culture of giving back to the community, among the corporate and legal fraternity. There isn’t an organisation out there established as a corporate foundation to do this. “We believe the legal community can be a catalyst to do more, with their expertise and intimate knowledge of the community. We want to excite this group to go forth and contribute.” Both Mr Menon and Mr Tan have had a long commitment to public service. Mr Menon says he is passionate about pro bono work. “Two to three years after I joined KhattarWong in 1981, the first person who called me was (then-president) Devan Nair. He said – you should help the unions. They were the first group I was involved in; they were very poor.” His service to organisations included the labour foundation and trade union, including work for SLF Properties and SLF Management Services; NTUC Fairprice and the Hindu Endowments Board for whom he helped with the construction of and fundraising for the Sri Sivan Temple at Dhoby Ghaut. In 1993 he was conferred the Public Service Medal, and the Friends of Labour Award by the National Trades Union Congress. Mr Tan is council member of a number of organisations including the Football Association of Singapore, the Singapore Red Cross and the Singapore Road Safety Council. He has established a National University of Singapore bursary for needy students, the Tan Han Boon Bursary, named after his father. Last year, the foundation hosted two major fund raisers, galvanising the firm’s wide network of clients and associates. It raised some S$450,000 through two charity golf events in May and October. Beneficiaries for the May event included the Straits Times School Pocket Money Fund, the World Wide Fund for Nature and the National Gallery Singapore. The October event’s beneficiaries included the Red Cross Home for the Disabled. Says Mr Tan: “What I can see is that corporations are coming forward and affirming that they like the causes we support. In these bad economic times, to raise S$450,000 over four to five months is pretty credible. “I think the level of awareness of philanthropy or giving is rising. It’s quite clear that donations and contributions have gone up over the past five to 10 years. Can corporates do more? Yes, the legal community can do more with their specialised knowledge. We created this foundation to promote awareness and establish programmes that can be actualised and help entrench this community.” To further the cause of pro bono work, the foundation has launched the RHTLaw Taylor Wessing Subhas Anandan Pro Bono Award to recognise and fund the best pro bono ideas. The foundation also partnered the Singapore Management University’s School of Law to launch the RHT Tan Chong Huat Corporate Crime Award, recognising the best students in corporate crime.
February 17, 2017

Most industry watchers are betting on the odds that the government will let market forces play out before intervening in the property market. Deputy Head of Real Estate Sandra Han discusses with The Straits Times

RHTLaw Taylor Wessing Deputy Head of Real Estate Sandra Han was quoted in The Business Times article titled “Lifting of property cooling measures seen unlikely”. The article was first published in The Business Times on 17 February 2017. Lifting of property cooling measures seen unlikely Industry watchers expect the government to let market forces play out before intervening Source: The Business Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Date: 17 Feb 2017 Author: Lynette Khoo THOSE hoping for any lifting of property cooling measures may be in for a non-event if the projection of market experts rings true. This is because most industry watchers expect the government to let market forces play out before intervening. Also, tax consultants are not expecting major revisions to other property taxes, though some hope that the government will see it fit to re-introduce tax remission for vacant properties given the tough rental market and review property tax on vacant private land. This echoes some of the recommendations made by the Real Estate Developers' Association of Singapore. "Given the rising vacancy rates and the less-than-promising market outlook, perhaps the government can consider reinstating vacancy refunds for a period of time, say for five years," said Lim Gek Khim, an Ernst & Young tax partner. "This would provide some relief to owners of unoccupied property during challenging times." Since Jan 1, 2014, property owners can no longer claim the so-called "vacancy refunds" on property taxes for unoccupied properties (both residential and non-residential). The change coincided with the introduction of a new and more progressive property tax schedule on residential properties that year. Citing headwinds in the rental market with the increase in newly completed properties, Dentons Rodyk & Davidson senior partner Lee Liat Yeang noted that re-introducing the tax remission for vacant properties will help to mitigate the hardships of cash-strapped property owners. "The government should also consider more tax incentives to developers who develop and build housing using prefabricated prefinished volumetric construction (PPVC) methods and/or who invest money to incorporate more energy saving facilities in the development." Most industry watchers are betting on the odds that the government will stand pat on maintaining property cooling measures in their current form, amid early signs of a recovery in the private residential market characterised by an improvement in transactions and moderating price declines in 2016. Through selective discounts, deferred payment schemes or bulk sale to third-party or parent company, developers have also been able to move sales in projects affected by the qualifying certificate (QC) conditions and the additional buyer's stamp duty (ABSD). "For these reasons, it is expected that the government will let market forces play out before further intervening in the property market," said Sandra Han, deputy head of real estate practice at RHTLaw Taylor Wessing. The QC conditions, which affect foreign and listed developers, require them to finish building their projects within five years of acquiring the site and sell all the units within two years of completion; otherwise, they incur extension charges for unsold units. Since late 2011, developers also have to sell out a project within five years to qualify for ABSD remission. Credit Suisse estimates QC charges and ABSD remission clawback for developers this year to be S$800 million in total. Still, removing ABSD entirely at this point is undesirable from the government's standpoint, Ms Han said. "It will only lead to greater volatility in the property market, sensing the pent-up demand from long-term property investors. It would not be surprising if the upcoming Budget leaves nothing on the table for property investors to look forward to," she added. But Mr Lee felt that if the government chooses to keep the ABSD, it should consider reducing the rates for Singaporeans. "The loan-to-value ratio should be relaxed for the second and subsequent housing loans since excessive borrowing will not be possible with the total debt servicing ratio in place." KPMG Singapore head of real estate Tay Hong Beng reckoned that if there is to be anything at all on cooling measures in the Budget, it will likely be a gradual lifting of measures that is done in phases. He said: "A phased approach will help manage potential pricing spikes due to a sudden increase in demand and facilitate a smooth transition for the property market."
February 16, 2017

“Tower Transit’s willingness to try and find alternative jobs for the affected parties does not “detract from or waive its breach” of the employment agreement”, Employment and Labour Relations Partner Vernon Voon shares more with The Straits Times

RHTLaw Taylor Wessing Partner Vernon Voon was featured in The Straits Times article titled “Tower Transit pulls back job offers for six bus captains”. The article was first published in The Straits Times dated 15 January 2017. Tower Transit pulls back job offers for six bus captains It offers to help them find other jobs; MOM says firm acknowledges lapses in HR process Source: The Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Date: 15 February 2017 Author: Zhaki Abdullah Bus operator Tower Transit said it "inadvertently" hired more bus captains than it needed between December and January, during its recruitment activities. Six had already signed employment contracts with the Anglo-Australian firm when they were told the offers were being rescinded. One bus captain was informed by e-mail just two weeks before he was due to start work this month that the company had reached "full staff capacity" and was "unable to proceed" with its job offer. The man, who did not want to be identified, said the recruitment drive was "misleading" and that those who had quit their previous jobs after getting offers were "left stranded and distressed". A Tower Transit spokesman told The Straits Times the company has since tried to help the men who were affected. "It's a situation that has caused them distress, and we're doing everything we can, including direct referrals to other organisations, to help them find similar positions," he said, adding that only three had responded to the offer of help. The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) said Tower Transit had acknowledged "lapses" in its human resource process and told the ministry it would compensate the affected parties, though no details were given of what this would be. "Affected individuals who have any queries may approach MOM or the unions, if they are union members, for advice and assistance," said a ministry spokesman. Both employers and employees should commit to the terms and conditions of the employment contract once it is signed, said Mr Melvin Yong, executive secretary of the National Transport Workers' Union (NTWU). "If either party has to revoke the contract, due notification, explanation and compensation should be given," said Mr Yong, who is also a Member of Parliament for Tanjong Pagar GRC. He added that the NTWU can help affected employees by linking them up with the Employment and Employability Institute for job placement assistance. Tower Transit's willingness to try and find alternative jobs for the affected parties does not "detract from or waive its breach" of the employment agreement if it did not comply with the provisions surrounding its termination, said lawyer Vernon Voon. The employment and labour relations partner at law firm RHTLaw Taylor Wessing noted: "In the event that an alternative job is offered, that will only go towards mitigation of the damages that the affected parties have suffered as a result of the company's breach in not observing the terms of the agreement regarding its termination." Tower Transit became the third public bus operator here in 2015.
February 7, 2017

International law firm RHTLaw Taylor Wessing announces new Partner and Foreign Lawyer hires

Leading international law firm RHTLaw Taylor Wessing announced today the addition of Partner (Foreign Lawyer) Mr Gerallt Wyn Owen, Mr Ben Constance, and Foreign Lawyer Mr Gilad Shay.  The new hires complement the Firm’s focus on developing industry-focused capabilities for clients and will help enhance a reputation for understanding clients’ businesses and for delivering innovative services that anticipate their needs. All three lawyers also have proficiencies in handling complex cross-border transactions.  RHTLaw Taylor Wessing Managing Partner Mr Tan Chong Huat commented, “We are excited to welcome our three new hires - all exceptional lawyers in their field. Their individual expertise will be a welcomed addition to our global team and will continue to strengthen the services that we can offer clients. They boast world class capabilities in their respective industries, blending well with the Firm’s vision of being an international law firm based in Asia. Gerallt, Ben and Gilad will contribute invaluably as expert legal advisors and will be seen as “go-to” industry practitioners by our clients. This is a significant addition to our bench strength.”  Gerallt is a senior international corporate crime and regulation lawyer with more than 21 years of experience. His strengths are in domestic and international investigations, fraud, corporate and financial crime, anti-corruption, anti-money laundering, disciplinary proceedings and regulation. Gerallt has previously been listed as one of 'The Lawyer - Hot 100'. He was also recommended by Chambers & Partners Global 2014 and 2015 for dispute resolution in both Singapore and the UK, in addition to being ranked by Who’s Who Legal as one of the top ten most highly regarded business crime defense lawyers in the world based outside the UK/US. Gerallt will be part of the Firm’s Litigation & Dispute Resolution Practice.  Ben joins the Firm’s Corporate Practice, bringing with him close to 15 years of experience in handling matters relating to cross-border M&A, equity capital markets and general corporate law. He has advised on transactions in Asia, Australia and throughout the Middle East in various sectors including banking and financial services, hospitality, information technology and energy. Ben has written various articles for International Law Office, Dubai SME magazine, Allorya.com and Australian Business Council Dubai. With over 10 years of experience, Gilad is an addition to the Firm’s Capital Markets, Corporate and Intellectual Property & Technology Practices. He has extensive experience in cross-border commercial and technology-focused transactions, M&A deals, joint ventures and in advising on intellectual property matters. He is especially engaged in matters relating to Israel, Singapore and the ASEAN region and has advised Fortune 500 companies, investors and start-ups. Gilad was part of the professional team in the first Initial Public Offering of an Israeli technology company on the Singapore Stock Exchange in over a decade. --- This press release is featured in the following news reports: "SG: RHTLaw adds Withers’ head of international regulatory" - Asian Legal Business, 7 February 2017