October 31, 2016

RHTLaw Taylor Wessing Managing Partner Tan Chong Huat shared his views on “Opportunities amid the downturn” in this week’s Views from the Top

RHTLaw Taylor Wessing’s Managing Partner Tan Chong Huat shared his views in this week’s topic in the Business Times’ weekly column, Views from the Top. This article was first published in The Business Times on 31 October 2016. Opportunities amid the downturn OCT 31, 2016 5:50 AM THIS WEEK'S TOPIC: What's the economic outlook for your business and industry? How is your firm responding to it? Tan Chong Huat Managing Partner RHTLaw Taylor Wessing LLP THE economic outlook for legal services and professional services is certainly challenging at this stage. However, having been through the Asian financial crisis, Sars, and global financial crisis, we know that only the fittest will survive when things go wrong with the economy. Here at RHTLaw Taylor Wessing and the RHT Group of Companies, we see this as an opportunity to invest and build on what our core strengths are so as to ride out the recession and grow aggressively when the economy turns around. We have strong fundamentals, with a commitment to providing clients with innovative multi-disciplinary solutions, embracing technology and developing our human resources to the fullest potential. There will be opportunities globally, in the Asean region and beyond, where we are well placed with the right network and corporate structures. More importantly, we have the imagination, courage and determination to embrace new ways of doing things. Instead of being disrupted, we are playing the disruptor role and constantly thinking without any box. I am confident that we shall achieve business success despite the difficult economic outlook.
October 27, 2016

RHTLaw Taylor Wessing Partner Napolean Koh featured in The New Paper

RHTLaw Taylor Wessing Partner Napolean Koh was featured in The New Paper article titled "He stabs himself over 8 times then stabs tenant too". The article was first published in The New Paper on 26 October 2016. He stabs himself over 8 times then stabs tenant too Unemployed man stabs himself, calls police, then threatens his three flatmates Source: SPH Digital News © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Date: 26 Oct 2016 Author: Shaffiq Alkhatib He called the police after attempting suicide by stabbing his chest and neck more than eight times with a knife. But in an apparent change of mind, Lay Chee Leong, 39, decided that police intervention was not needed any more. With blood flowing from his wounds, the unemployed man barged into a bedroom occupied by his parents' three tenants and told the terrified women not to open the door should police officers turn up. Lay, who has substance use disorder with symptoms of psychosis and depression, also threatened to blow up the flat if they disobeyed his orders. He told the three Chinese nationals: "Since I'm already like this, it does not matter if I kill another one or two." He then stabbed one of them, electronic component assembler Wang Aiyan, 27, in the neck when she made eye contact with him. Yesterday, Lay pleaded guilty in court to one count each of voluntarily causing grievous hurt and criminal intimidation. A second count of criminal intimidation and one count of attempting suicide will be taken into consideration during sentencing. Assistant Public Prosecutor (APP) Lim Yu Hui said Lay stabbed himself with the knife that had an 11cm-long blade in his parents' flat at Block 273, Yishun Street 22, at around 5.30am on March 23. He changed his mind after calling the police and entered the women's room after kicking the door several times. His mother, Madam Chia Mui Keow, 64, tried to stop him but he shouted at her and told her to return to her room. She did as she was told and called her younger brother, Mr Chia Ah Bah, 59, for help. While in the women's room, Lay ordered Ms Wang, Ms Liu Weina, 20, and Ms Li Hui, 35, to hand over their mobile phones, and they complied out of fear. APP Lim said: "He also threatened the victims and told them not to open the door for the police or he would detonate a bomb inside the flat. "He then directed the victims to clean up the blood stains which he had left on the floor of the room." When he saw a light flashing on Ms Wang's phone, he thought the women had alerted the police. He told the women that if they tried anything funny, he would fill the flat with gas and blow it up so they would all die together. EYE CONTACT Ms Wang nodded her head in response but when she made eye contact with him, Lay stabbed her on the left side of her neck before leaving the room. Mr Chia had arrived at the unit by then and saw his bloodied nephew holding the weapon. He took it away and tried to help him clean his wounds. The police arrived around 7.25am. Lay was taken to Changi General Hospital and discharged the same day, while Ms Wang was rushed to Khoo Teck Puat Hospital (KTPH). A medical report dated June 10 said her injuries were life-threatening and she was placed on medical leave for 92 days. Yesterday, APP Lim urged District Judge Low Wee Ping to sentence Lay to between three and 3½ years' jail. Stressing that the offences were serious, she said that Ms Wang now works in administration in her company as she is unable to carry heavy loads because of her injuries. She also draws a lower salary now compared with what she used to earn. She is still receiving treatment from KTPH, and has to pay for her own medical treatments such as CT scans. Lay had multiple superficial stab wounds on his neck and eight stab wounds on his chest. His lawyer, Mr Napolean Koh, pleaded for leniency and told the judge that his client should be referred to a prison psychiatrist while serving his sentence. The case has been adjourned for the prosecution to reconsider its sentencing options because of Lay's mental condition. He will be back in court on Dec 15. For voluntarily causing grievous hurt, he can be jailed up to 15 years and fined, or caned.
October 24, 2016

RHTLaw Taylor Wessing Deputy Head of Litigation & Dispute Resolution Practice Nandakumar Renganathan featured in TODAY

RHTLaw Taylor Wessing’s Deputy Head of Litigation & Dispute Resolution Practice Nandakumar Renganathan was quoted in TODAY article titled “Google indicates it will apply for permit for next year’s Pink Dot event”. The article was first published in TODAY on 22 October 2016. Google indicates it will apply for permit for next year’s Pink Dot event   Source: 2016 © Mediacorp Press Ltd. Date: 22 October 2016 Author: Valerie Koh SINGAPORE — At least one regular sponsor of the annual Pink Dot event at the Speakers’ Corner, Google, has pledged its commitment to the event, by indicating that it would apply for a permit next year. “We’ve been proud supporters of Pink Dot since 2011 and we will continue to show our commitment to diversity and inclusion. So, we will apply for a permit to support Pink Dot in 2017 if required by this new regulation. We hope that these new rules will not limit public discussion on important issues,” said a Google spokesperson on Friday (Oct 21). Several of the 18 sponsors for this year’s event — including Bloomberg, Apple, Twitter and BP — declined to comment on the changes to the Public Order (Unrestricted Area) Order 2016, which will come into effect on Nov 1. The amendments, announced by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) on Friday, made it clear that foreign entities have to apply for a permit before “sponsoring, publicly promoting … or organising its members or employees to participate” in Speakers’ Corner events. A spokeswoman for JP Morgan, which has been sponsoring Pink Dot since 2013, said the bank is committed to promoting equality in the workplace, and encouraging a “supportive and inclusive” culture. “We believe in providing a work environment for our employees that is safe and free from discrimination regardless of their race, gender or sexual orientation,” said Ms Li Anne Wong, declining to share whether the bank will apply for a permit next year. Lawyers told TODAY that the changes announced by the MHA were a reflection of the Government’s long-standing stance against foreign influence on domestic matters. Veteran lawyer Amolat Singh said: “It doesn’t come as something shocking, abrupt or out of the ordinary. It’s really an extension of the law we already have.” Although some might frown upon the changes, they fortify “the principle that Singaporeans must speak up”. “Some of these foreigners might have their own agenda to run”, he added. On Friday, the MHA also made clear the distinction between Singapore and foreign entities. It defines a Singapore company as an entity incorporated under the Companies Act here, controlled by a Singaporean majority. This distinction closes a loophole in the law, under which multinational corporations could argue that they are Singapore entities, simply because they have subsidiaries incorporated or registered locally, said Singapore Management University (SMU) law don Eugene Tan. “The second requirement under the new rules is that these entities have to be majority-owned by Singapore citizens — I see it as clarifying,” said Associate Professor Tan. The definition of a Singapore entity is consistent with other areas of the law, such as the Political Donations Act, said SMU’s Assistant Professor of Law Jack Lee. Moving forward, Mr Nandakumar Renganathan, RHTLaw Taylor Wessing’s deputy head (litigation and dispute resolution practice), urged companies to have clear guidelines on employee participation in such events. “To be safe, companies should make it clear that their employees should not use the company’s name as sponsors or supporters of such events, without the company’s consent from its management,” he said. Lawyers noted that should a foreign company run afoul of the law, its senior management is the one that is likely to be held accountable. Citing the flouting of tax regulations or employment laws, Mr Singh said that company directors are often the ones taken to court. Mr Nandakumar felt that management committee members, managers or chief executives could also be held responsible. ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY NEO CHAI CHIN.
October 21, 2016

RHTLaw Taylor Wessing Deputy Head of Real Estate Sandra Han quoted in Property Guru

RHTLaw Taylor Wessing’s Deputy Head of Real Estate Sandra Han was quoted in Property Guru article titled “Someone died in this house; any takers?”. The article was first published in Property Guru on 21 October 2016. Someone died in this house; any takers? In Singapore, property agents and home sellers are not bound by law to disclose if a death has taken place in a home. This may seem unfair to some, but experts say there are ways of finding out if the home you’re interested in buying has a dark past. We investigate.   Source: © 2016 PropertyGuru Pte. Ltd Date: 21 October 2016 Author: Romesh Navaratnarajah 32-year-old Singaporean Joy Foo (not her real name) lives in her dream home, a rented walk-up apartment in Little India. “When I first visited the unit, it had a really nice feel to it, despite being dirty and unfurnished,” the television producer said. “After moving in and chatting to the neighbours, it turns out the previous occupant was a Hindu priest, which might explain the good energy I felt when I first viewed the unit.” Nightmare in Toa Payoh Foo made it a point to find out about the property’s past because about 14 years ago, she suffered a nightmarish experience while she was living in her parents’ HDB flat in Toa Payoh. Speaking to PropertyGuru, she recounted the incident: “I woke up in the middle of the night and from my bed, I could see a female ghost dressed in white outside my bedroom. I also saw a floating head with long hair outside my window grinning broadly and showing very sharp teeth. “Not knowing what to do, I shut my eyes and stayed still until I could hear some signs of life outside. The next morning, I told my grandmother about what I had seen the night before and she insisted on telling my parents. Shortly after this incident, we moved out.” Homes that are believed to be haunted, or that have seen murders or other crimes, are called stigmatised properties, and tend to be shunned by buyers and tenants. Don’t ask, don’t tell Some states in the US, such as Alaska, California and South Dakota require home sellers to reveal if murder or suicide had taken place on the premises. In Singapore, on the other hand, sellers are not required to disclose such facts. When contacted, Sandra Han, Partner in the Real Estate Practice at RHTLaw Taylor Wessing, said: “The attitude in Singapore is still very much a ‘buyer beware’ one. Research these days is much easier with the Internet. If the buyer feels strongly about it, he or she may attempt to extract a warranty from the seller, but the buyer is highly unlikely to succeed.” The lack of disclosure laws here has attracted criticism from a number of people. Foo believes that buyers have a right to know if the property they are viewing has a dark past, so they can make an informed decision on whether to proceed with the purchase. “What they don’t know won’t kill them, but buying a home is a very big financial decision and I think buyers would appreciate having all the information,” she said. Alan Cheong, Research Head at Savills Singapore, agrees. “If you can have laws pertaining to religious beliefs and religious harmony, and religion is something that the fundamental logic of science cannot prove, then something as ephemeral as a stigma should also be disclosed,” he said. Just Google it Cheong suggests that buyers can go online and search Google for information on incidents that happened in an area, then try to zoom in on a specific location. But other analysts noted that it would be hard to determine which unit has seen death, since exact addresses are anonymised in media reports. “Buyers would have to do the necessary background checks – such as checking with neighbours of the unit they are interested in,” said Dr Lee Nai Jia, Head of Southeast Asia Research at property consultancy Edmund Tie & Co. Cheong also thinks the best source would be the neighbours, “particularly from the older generation”. Lee added that buyers can look out for telltale signs, such as sellers offering prices substantially below market price, or who are overly eager to dispose of their properties. Does it kill property values? The question of whether the values of stigmatised properties are severely affected, though, is still a mystery. “Given that stigmatised properties are few and far between, and that the facts of the case tend to be incomplete or elusive, there is insufficient basis to conclude that stigmatised properties are heavily discounted, without having to resort to conjecture or anecdotal evidence,” said Lee. However, Cheong believes the pool of potential buyers who would be interested in stigmatised properties is smaller, “limited to those who are not concerned by the past, or those who have the belief that living in premises with a torrid history would bring them better fortune”. He added: “The fact that the market size is smaller would naturally translate to the price being lower.” He restrained from speculating about actual numbers. “How much lower, it is hard to tell, but my opinion is that it could run into double digit percentages.” A big headache for agents Marcus Sim, a property agent with PropNex Realty, revealed that selling a stigmatised property is a huge challenge for any seller and agent to undertake. “It involves a considerable amount of time and effort to market and eventually close the deal,” he said. According to Sim, the amount of work involved in selling a stigmatised property depends on what took place in the home or the surrounding area. “There are varying degrees of stigmatised properties, ranging from estates plagued by loanshark vandalism to estates where a murder has taken place.” In such situations, he first asks his client if there is an urgent need to sell the property. If so, he goes on to explain that such properties typically require a huge discount to entice buyers to even consider viewing the property. Although this isn’t the best scenario for sellers, it does provide a good opportunity for property hunters to get a good discount, noted Sim. “Unfortunately, such events don’t usually affect just one unit, but rather an entire cluster of surrounding units. And in most cases, sellers that are affected will have more room for negotiation in order to offload these properties,” he said. Ah long flats Sim has had some experience helping to sell stigmatised properties. He cited the case of a 3-room HDB flat in Clementi which had an asking price of $350,000. “The block had several cases of loanshark activity going on. It was quite evident as the police had set up signboards to call for witnesses of these illegal activities in the estate. So invariably, every buyer who came to view the unit knew what was going on in the estate because these signboards were placed at the lift landings of that particular block. “It was very hard to follow up with these potential buyers as most of them were put off by the signboards and lost all interest in the unit,” said Sim. Nevertheless, after four months of marketing the unit, he finally found a buyer who was willing to offer around $330,000, slightly under valuation. Even though the buyer knew about the block’s history, Sim said the sale went ahead because “the unit wasn’t the one affected by loanshark activity, and it had already been some time since the first few incidents occurred”.