Next Generation Partners

Regulatory: anti-corruption and compliance in Hong Kong

Herbert Smith Freehills

Praised for its ‘invaluable tactical acumen, experience and judgement’, Herbert Smith Freehills offers notable depth in both internal investigations and investigations conducted by regulators in Hong Kong and across Asia, the US and Europe into allegations of fraud, bribery and corruption, among other offences. The team’s client portfolio is varied and spans domestic and global companies, large commercial and investment banks and financial institutions, as well as government bodies. Hong Kong- and US-qualified Kyle Wombolt leads the global corporate crime and investigations group; he stands out in the financial services realm and is also highly praised for his bribery and corruption expertise alongside senior consultant Pamela Kiesselbach. Another key team member for multi-jurisdictional mandates is Jeremy Birch, who is qualified in Hong Kong, New York and Australia. In May 2021, a team including William Hallatt departed to Gibson Dunn.

Practice head(s):

Kyle Wombolt

Other key lawyers:

Pamela Kiesselbach; Jeremy Birch

Testimonials

‘Absolutely the best out there on investigations. I’ve used them on both internal investigations and handling a regulatory/criminal investigation. Invaluable tactical acumen, experience and judgement. They have first-rate technical knowledge, but in these matters that’s only half the game, what makes them stand out is the depth of experience in handling a live matter – identifying the issues, quickly developing a strategy to manage the risks, being pragmatic about what outcomes you should be trying to achieve.’   

‘The anti-corruption, investigations and compliance team at HSF is led by Kyle Wombolt. It is the premier practice of its kind in Asia. The service Kyle and his team provide to their clients is first-rate. It is a privilege working with the HSF team, and what I appreciate most about them is the high quality, tremendous experience and weight of authority they bring to a matter – which is unrivalled by any other law firm I know of.’

‘The team has a depth of experience that no other team in Asia has and they are always at the cutting edge of knowledge and client service.’

‘Kyle Wombolt and Pamela Kiesselbach provide clear and seasoned advice in areas which are highly sensitive (bribery and corruption). Their experience reflects in the strategies they suggest in dealing with such difficult issues and which provide outcomes favourable to their clients.’

‘Kyle Wombolt and Jeremy Birch are both standout partners in the anti-corruption and compliance sector. They have a deep bench of associates and significant expertise in conducting investigations and setting up compliance programmes across the region.’

Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP

Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP assists clients with regulatory investigations into allegations of corruption, market misconduct, money laundering and sanctions-related violations, among others. The group’s recent workload demonstrates a strength in the financial services sector. For multi-jurisdictional investigations, the team is able to rely on the expertise of its counterpart in the US; former US prosecutor Patrick Sinclair and Martin Rogers jointly lead the department.

Work highlights

  • Advising a major European multinational company in connection with their internal corruption investigation of its management in Shanghai.
  • Assisting a large Chinese business make criminal complaints to the PRC authorities against its Chinese business partner.

Gibson Dunn

Over a decade after its establishment in Hong Kong, Gibson Dunn remains a go-to destination for global corporate clients seeking expertise in money laundering, anti-corruption and compliance matters. The team is fully integrated in the firm’s global practice, which allows it to act on cross-border corporate investigations across Asia and worldwide; US-qualified department head Kelly Austin stands out for her wealth of experience of multi-jurisdictional investigations and corporate compliance programs. In May 2021, the group bolstered its financial services offering with the hire of William Hallatt from Herbert Smith Freehills.

Practice head(s):

Kelly Austin

Other key lawyers:

Oliver Welch; William Hallatt

Key clients

Kimberly-Clark Corporation

Ropes & Gray LLP

Led by Andrew Dale, the team at Ropes & Gray LLP is highly experienced in handling enforcement issues for large US-based and global companies in sectors such as life sciences, financial services, technology and retail, among others. Of particular note, Geoffrey Atkins is recommended by clients for his knowledge of the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act; counsel David Chen in Shanghai also stands out for his credentials in anti-corruption matters. In July 2020, David Zhang departed to relocate to New Zealand.

Practice head(s):

Andrew Dale

Other key lawyers:

Geoffrey Atkins; David Chen

Testimonials

‘Geoff Atkins has a good knowledge and experience of FCPA issues. Very thoughtful advice and is responsive to emails as well.’

Debevoise & Plimpton LLP

Debevoise & Plimpton LLP’s ‘excellent, very astute and diligent’ team is adept at handling internal and government investigations into allegations of bribery and corruption, fraud and false accounting. The group’s work is multi-jurisdictional, often involving agencies in other Asian jurisdictions, the US and Europe; in this respect, it draws on the expertise of teams abroad. Mark Johnson and Gareth Hughes share leadership of the department.

Practice head(s):

Mark Johnson; Gareth Hughes

Testimonials

‘The enthusiasm of the junior lawyers and ability to take charge and propose solutions/next steps.’

‘US-based sanctions expert who is able to help clients think practically about the implications on businesses in Asia. Quick turnaround time.’

‘The team is excellent, very astute and diligent. They provide an excellent service.’

‘Mark Johnson has an encyclopedic knowledge of this area.’

DLA Piper

DLA Piper’s regulatory and investigations group is split between Hong Kong, Shanghai and Beijing; it focuses on representing large companies based in China and Hong Kong in internal investigations into allegations of fraud, bribery and corruption. Of recent note, the team is increasingly being retained for data-related breaches. The department is led by Sammy Fang (Hong Kong) and Nathan Bush (Singapore).

Practice head(s):

Sammy Fang; Nathan Bush

Testimonials

‘A truly global team pulling expertise from China, Hong Kong and the US. Perfect in dealing with cross-jurisdictional regulatory matters.’       

‘Sammy Fang is a very client-friendly partner, technically strong, with excellent insights and strategic mind.’

King & Wood Mallesons

King & Wood Mallesons’ multi-disciplinary team places an emphasis on handling internal and government investigations for individuals, domestic companies and subsidiaries of global companies. Fraud, bribery and corruption are among the group’s particular areas of focus, though it is able to act on a more diverse range of issues due to its collaboration with the firm’s dispute resolution, corporate and finance experts. Paul Starr and Barbara Chiu jointly sit at the helm of the practice.

Practice head(s):

Paul Starr; Barbara Chiu

Key clients

Simwon Inc.

Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP

Praised for its anti-corruption expertise, Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP handles a wide scope of high-value matters relating to internal investigations and compliance programs, particularly in the financial services and technology sectors. The practice works closely with colleagues based in Washington DC, often on issues involving the US Securities and Exchange Commission. The team is also noted for its Mandarin language skills, which includes practice head Steve Kwok (‘a very accomplished partner'). 

Practice head(s):

Steve Kwok

Other key lawyers:

Siyu Zhang

Testimonials

‘All big companies are battling with corruption-related matters and internal investigation has become constantly pivotal and highly complicated. Skadden’s team has mastered the skills of risk management at various levels, and been able to strike the right balance between investigation thoroughness and smooth business development.’

‘Skadden’s litigation team is very professional with both solid legal skills and strong business sense. They are responsive and always act proactively and provide clients with business-friendly solutions. Their reaction to the emergency cases and clients request is also quick even under pressure.’

‘The Hong Kong team supports its market-leading US IPO practice in anti-corruption investigations and overall compliance. It is very effective in providing support.’

‘Steve Kwok is a versatile business partner and considerate in all aspects during the investigation. He can bridge the gap between the board and management, especially when the matter needs to be dealt with across diverse jurisdictions.’

‘Both Mr. Steve Kwok and Mr. Zhong Guan have provided great support to our company in the class action cases. Besides the merits that they are hardworking, professional and proactive, they are always willing to take more responsibilities and provide flexible solutions.’

‘Steve Kwok in Hong Kong is a very accomplished partner who is intelligent and gives academically-sound advice.’

Steptoe & Johnson

Steptoe & Johnson specialises in international sanctions-related compliance matters, which is a traditional area of focus for the firm globally. Managing partner Wendy Wysong serves as co-head of the firm’s global investigations and white-collar defence group. Of counsel Nicholas Turner is also singled out for being ‘knowledgeable, thoughtful and practical’.

Practice head(s):

Wendy Wysong

Other key lawyers:

Nicholas Turner

Testimonials

‘The team has a market-leading practice in Hong Kong in this space (sanctions, export control, regulatory) and is able to advise on sanctions implications for complicated products in the financial world.’

‘Wendy Wysong is an industry leader in town while important members of her team (particularly Nick Turner) are very proactive in responding to queries. They are able to provide commercial and pragmatic advice that takes into account banking practice.’

‘Nick Turner provides excellent personal service and coordinates resources in the local sanctions space to address our needs.  He is knowledgeable, thoughtful and practical.’

‘Practical, very responsive, commercial mindset. High degree of commitment to quality and turnaround time.’

Key clients

A US-based multinational insurance company

A multinational mining company

A company in the transport sector based in the Asia Pacific Region

A South East Asian trading company

A major Japanese corporation

A China-based financial conglomerate

The aircraft leasing arm of a Chinese multinational bank

A multilateral development bank headquartered in China

Work highlights

  • Conducting a group-wide risk assessment of a multinational mining company’s compliance programme for US, UN, EU and UK sanctions, export controls, and AML/CTF requirements.
  • Represented a Southeast Asian trading company in connection with an investigation by the DOJ and the FBI for allegedly shipping oil to a US-sanctioned country.
  • Serving as global sanctions and export controls counsel to a Japanese-based conglomerate.

Baker McKenzie

The ‘remarkably cohesive and close-knit team’ at Baker McKenzie advises on compliance issues and internal investigations involving allegations of fraud, bribery and corruption, and data-related breaches. It is noted for its varied sector-specific expertise spanning financial services, retail, insurance, food and beverage, and technology, to name a few. Mini vandePol leads the practice.

Practice head(s):

Mini vandePol

Other key lawyers:

Christine Cuthbert

Testimonials

‘Baker & McKenzie’s depth and breadth of connectivity and resources across the region is formidable.  Mini vandePol’s team that is focused on anti-corruption and compliance is very knowledgeable about the global legal landscape, the cultural nuances of operating in the different Asian regions and the intricacies and risks associated with specific industries.’

‘Combines technical expertise with a human face in what is a sensitive area.’

‘Baker McKenzie’s anti-corruption and compliance team, which is led by Mini vandePol, has a tremendous practice across Asia. All their mandates have been very high-stake, multi-jurisdictional and of critical importance to their clients. Their lawyers are exceptionally good, highly professional, hard-working and dedicated – they are a remarkably cohesive and close-knit team. All of this makes them very effective and instils a great measure of confidence in their clients that they are in safe hands. What I like about them is that they are still down-to-earth, very friendly and a joy to work with.’

‘Mini vandePol’s phone number is a must-have on your speed dial for anti-corruption and compliance issues in the region. Her knowledge, attention to detail, compassion, and focus on reaching a business solution for a client are unparalleled.’

‘Mini vandePol is a preeminent lawyer in Asia in this field. She really knows the market and is at the forefront of thought leadership in the area. She is extremely skilled and experienced, with a long history of dealing with complex and sensitive investigation and compliance matters across Asia.’

Work highlights

  • Assisting a multinational mass media company responsible for some of the leading global media brands with some of their most high-profile matters in the region, including allegations of misconduct by senior executives, and establishment and maintenance of an external whistleblower programme.
  • Conducting a large investigation for a US-headquartered and NYSE-listed global alternative investment manager in a large-scale fraud and corruption investigation in relation to allegations made against its recently acquired APAC subsidiary.
  • Assisting a US-listed multinational technology company with an investigation into allegations of fraud and potential breaches of data privacy in relation to customer data.

Kirkland & Ellis

At Kirkland & Ellis, ‘turnaround time is quick and availability is impressive’. The team focuses on assisting large corporates with sensitive issues involving internal and agency investigations into potential and alleged fraud, bribery and corruption, improper payments and other misconduct. The practice is spearheaded by Cori Lable in Hong Kong and Tiana Zhang in Shanghai.

Practice head(s):

Cori Lable; Tiana Zhang

Testimonials

‘The team has deep sector expertise and experience. Turnaround time is quick and availability is impressive.’

‘Cori Lable is extremely knowledgeable with respect to regulatory risks and issues in the APAC region having deep experience. She offers pragmatic advice which differentiates them from some of their competitors in this regard.’

The team has an excellent understanding of what businesses really need. The lawyers have a wealth of experience on the compliance side, as well as being able to bring in advanced international perspectives.’

Tiana Zhang is very responsible and efficient.’

Kobre & Kim

Kobre & Kim is regularly retained by clients for matters facing the US; it offers significant expertise in matters relating to the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, fraud allegations and sanctions violations. Department head Vasu Muthyala stands out for his former experience as a prosecutor at the US Department of Justice.

Practice head(s):

Vasu Muthyala

Morrison Foerster

Morrison Foerster has experience of all types of investigations and regulatory compliance issues such as US economic sanctions, anti-money laundering, Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, securities and accounting fraud, and related governance and corporate compliance issues. The team, led by Timothy Blakely, works closely with the firm's other offices across Asia. Blakely is supported by Sarah Thomas and B Chen Zhu, who joined in 2020 from Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP.

Practice head(s):

Timothy Blakely

Other key lawyers:

B Chen Zhu; Sarah Thomas

Testimonials

‘MoFo excels in providing practical advice. Rather than just reciting laws and regulations, MoFo is good at explaining “dos and don’ts” based on its reading of the laws and regulations.’

‘Tim Blakely responds timely to client emails. He not only has deep knowledge in compliance matters but also articulates clearly in terms of recommendations and next steps.’

‘MoFo is recommended for the firm’s sanctions practice led by former Director of the U.S. Treasury Department’s OFAC, John Smith. It is unique that it understands the business needs of its FI customers and the pain points and business needs of FIs with exposure to US nexus.’

‘Zhu Chen is well-versed in advising clients on sanctions issues. Any e-mail or request we get an answer within 24 hours and they always know the answer.’

‘I have worked with Zhu Chen and Gary Zeng. I appreciate their commerciality, practical advice, and speedy responses.’