Regulatory in Hong Kong

Allen & Overy

Allen & Overy’s ‘technical skills and strength need no introduction’, with clients additionally praising the team’s seamless collaboration with the firm’s network worldwide. Its areas of focus include market misconduct, licensing issues, general compliance matters, among others. The group’s client base is also varied and includes global banks, overseas banks with a presence in Hong Kong and numerous corporate clients in the financial services, asset management and insurance sectors. The department is spearheaded by the ‘incredibleCharlotte Robins and Matt Bower.

Practice head(s):

Charlotte Robins; Matt Bower

Other key lawyers:

Fai Hung Cheung; Andre Da Roza

Testimonials

‘The team’s technical skills and strength need no introduction. What is particularly impressive about this team is its connectivity to other teams within the firm and the wider A&O network.’ 

‘Charlotte Robins is incredible. Advice is concise and comprehensive. Charlotte will give you a view (a well-reasoned one), even when there is no black-and-white answer. Practical advice from Charlotte is a given.’

‘The team is extremely knowledgeable, thinks outside the box and is willing to work around the clock to accommodate our global stakeholders. They deliver practical, sensible advice that demonstrates an excellent understanding of our specific business and the industry as a whole. The individuals we work most closely with have a depth of experience (both locally and globally) which means that they are very well-placed to help us on cross-border matters. They are each technically very capable, tenacious and able to calmly and articulately deal with even the most challenging of stakeholders.’

Clifford Chance

Clifford Chance combines contentious and transactional expertise to provide comprehensive regulatory risk management advice to a wide variety of clients in the financial services sector, including multiple regulatory agencies, banks and financial institutions. For cross-border transactional mandates, the practice also often relies on the firm’s capabilities worldwide. The team has a strong track record across a full range of issues, such as licensing, anti-money laundering, and market misconduct. Global funds and investment management group leader Mark Shipman and contentious regulatory group head Donna Wacker jointly sit at the helm of the department.

Practice head(s):

Mark Shipman; Donna Wacker

Testimonials

In-depth understanding of the local regulators combined with very good knowledge of the financial sector and its various products’.

‘Ability to field a bilingual team‘.

Mark Shipman’s guidance and thoughts are particularly valued given his standing in the industry and a good understanding of the regulatory thinking in the market‘.

Key clients

Credit Suisse

Brilliance Capital

Citadel

Invesco

Schroder Investment Management

HSBC Global Asset Management/ Hang Seng Investment Management

UBS

JP Morgan

CPPIB

Standard Chartered Bank

Baker McKenzie

Noted for its multi-disciplinary approach, Baker McKenzie brings together extensive experience in contentious regulatory work including investigations, as well as advisory work in the banking, insurance and securities areas. Cynthia Tang leads the contentious group, where Bryan Ng is the go-to adviser for dawn raids matters. Karen Man heads the non-contentious practice and also focuses on more innovative products in the financial space, including cryptocurrencies, fintech and virtual banking. Recently promoted partner Grace Fung is also a key team member.

Practice head(s):

Cynthia Tang; Karen Man

Other key lawyers:

Bryan Ng; Grace Fung

Testimonials

‘Strength of the team lies in the professional knowledge and the way that they can provide advice in a very practical way which fits in the commercial sector a lot. The turnaround time from the team is short which always is demanding in the regulatory perspective.’

‘Karen Man is a very professional leader who leads the team well. Her team member is also a standout performer too.’

Key clients

Charles Schwab Corporation

StashAway

Tencent Holdings Limited

Fusion Bank Limited

Carlyle

United Overseas Bank

Work highlights

  • Provided Hong Kong-specific regulatory advice to Charles Schwab on its acquisition of TD Ameritrade, specifically its substantial shareholder licensing application with the SFC in Hong Kong.
  • Advised StashAway, a robo-advisor and digital wealth management start-up based in Singapore, on obtaining SFC licences in Hong Kong.

Deacons

Deacons is noted for its deep knowledge of financial services and banking regulation – a field in which it is increasingly assisting corporate entities setting up in Mainland China. Another primary area of focus is SFC licensing and compliance for financial firms and a wide variety of other financial sector clients. Singled out for his ‘good logical thinking in assessing each situation’, litigation and dispute resolution practice head Joseph Kwan leads the group alongside financial services department lead Jeremy Lam and finance and insolvency practice head Philip Gilligan. Jane McBride retired at the end of 2020.

Testimonials

‘Joseph Kwan is detail-oriented and thoughtful, with good logical thinking in assessing each situation.’

Linklaters

Acting for a number of financial institutions, Linklaters handles both contentious and advisory matters relating to regulation in the financial services sector. In addition, the team is gaining ground in the asset management and fintech industries by handling more innovative matters concerning digitalisation, licensing and corporate governance. The group is noted for its cross-border work, thanks in part to the firm’s global network; in particular, financial regulation practice head Sumit Indwar is praised for his ‘technical knowledge and familiarity with the SFO’.

Practice head(s):

Sumit Indwar

Testimonials

‘Linklaters’ regulatory and dispute resolution team is highly regarded within the market and are very proactive in keeping up to date on the latest regulatory developments within the region. This is especially important given the increasing geopolitical tensions and the impact on the regulatory environment.’

‘It is rare that there is a specialised team focusing on non-contentious regulatory practice. Sumit has been able to pick up the local regulatory skills quickly; his technical knowledge and familiarity with the SFO are exceptional.’

‘Andrew Chung is highly regarded and the go-to lawyer for sensible and practical advice. He cuts through to the issues quickly and understands our business and commercial demands.’

‘Sumit is very hands-on, logical and able to give practical advice to clients. He is familiar with the day-to-day legal issues sell-side clients and buy-side clients face and has lots of market knowledge.’

Key clients

Trumid Holdings LLC

Ashurst

A go-to destination for clients in the banking and financial services sectors, Ashurst is noted for its advice on regulatory issues involving the Securities and Futures Commission (SFC) and the Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing (HKEX). UK-qualified managing partner Ben Hammond leads the non-contentious regulatory team, while James Comber sits at the helm of the contentious group. In July 2020, the practice expanded its contentious corruption-related offering with the arrival of Cliff Chow from Allen & Overy.

Practice head(s):

Ben Hammond; James Comber

Other key lawyers:

Cliff Chow; Colin Hung

Testimonials

‘The team is very proactive in training. They deliver the monthly regulatory breakfast which is very successful.’

‘Ashurst provides the best coverage across APAC for regulatory law advice and Hong Kong is a big part of that.’

‘Ben Hammond and his associate Colin are always providing a thorough analysis in a timely manner.’

‘Cliff Chow is very knowledgeable in regulatory matters. He has a good sense of the clients’ needs and is quick to address clients’ concerns accurately. A very reliable legal expert on the regulatory front.’

‘Ben Hammond is always available, always commercial, always personable and helps move our business forward.’

Key clients

HSBC

BNP Paribas

Royal Bank of Canada

Barclays

Credit Suisse

ABN AMRO Clearing

Citadel Securities

CLSA / CITC Securites

Interactive Brokers

Optiver

Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP

Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP is noted for its breadth of regulatory enforcement work in the financial space, with the firm advising a variety of buyers including large banks, sellers, advisers, regulators and trading platforms. Clients recommend the group for cross-border mandates; indeed, it is a suitable suggestion for clients seeking on-the-ground capabilities in both US and Hong Kong law, though multiple team members are also qualified in other jurisdictions such as the UK. Praised for his ‘unparalleled experience’, Martin Rogers leads the group alongside James Wadham and Karen Chan.

Testimonials

‘One of the best teams in the world particularly given the very strong US experience, a firm which is ideally suited to advise on regulatory issues which have a cross-border element.’  

‘Martin Rogers has unparalleled experience.’

Dechert

Dechert acts for a wide variety of players in the financial sector, such as investment funds, asset managers, financial institutions and banks, insurance companies and regulators. The practice combines regulatory expertise in Hong Kong, EU and US law to advise on issues relating to corporate governance, contractual obligations, tort and market misconduct, among others. Michael Wong  leads the non-contentious team, while Maria Sit serves as co-head of the global white-collar, compliance and investigations group.

Practice head(s):

Michael Wong; Maria Sit

Other key lawyers:

Stanley Tiu; Natasha Shum

Testimonials

‘US capabilities is a big attraction. Dealing with cross-border issues can be complicated and we need a balanced but practical advisor.’

‘Maria Sit handles cross-border issues very well and had proven to have a good relationship with colleagues in other offices.’

The team led by Maria has a solid business and legal knowledge; they have a thorough understanding and precise analysis of the macro-regulatory environment and specific legal issues‘.

Maria has 20 years of experience in litigation and handling regulatory investigations and enforcement procedures. She is a diligent, calm and efficient litigation lawyer‘.

The financial regulatory team led by Maria has solid business knowledge and is very familiar with the legal and commercial issues faced by clients in the financial industry. She is bilingual, responsive, and able to provide our company with comprehensive legal services with high efficiency and quality. She is our preferred legal counsel‘.

Maria can always grasp the key points of the problem quickly and accurately. She has solid business knowledge and the firm has a very reliable and trustworthy team of lawyers‘.

Key clients

China Ping An Insurance Overseas (Holdings) Limited

Stifel Financial Inc.

Work highlights

    Herbert Smith Freehills

    Benefitting from the firm’s global resources, Herbert Smith Freehills is a destination preferred by clients for both contentious and non-contentious regulatory matters in the financial services sector. Clients praise department head Hannah Cassidy for her ‘very level-headed and practical advice’; Kyle Wombolt and Natalie Curtis are also key team members for advisory work. The practice has been undergoing changes, with a four-strong team led by William Hallatt departing to Gibson Dunn in April 2021.

    Practice head(s):

    Hannah Cassidy

    Testimonials

    ‘Hannah Cassidy has been responsive and sensible, very level-headed and practical advice.’

    King & Wood Mallesons

    Clients turn to King & Wood Mallesons due to its ‘very strong understanding of the regulatory requirements and nuances with a pragmatic approach’. The team’s regulatory expertise is complemented by credentials in dispute resolution, finance and technology. Licensing, compliance and internal investigations matters are among its key areas of focus. Banking and finance department head Richard Mazzochi is noted for his experience in ESG and LIBOR issues, among others. Urszula McCormack is a highly regarded adviser in the digital economy space.

    Practice head(s):

    Richard Mazzochi

    Testimonials

    ‘Richard Mazzochi has a wealth of experience and practical expertise advising banks in Hong Kong. His team is full of superstars who know the law and draft excellent documentation – including regulatory advice and T&Cs.’

    ‘Evan Manolios takes the time to understand our financial services products: digging into the payment and order flows of our products, understanding the user/customer experience, helping us achieve our commercial objectives.’

    ‘They are a cut above the rest in terms of being able to put themselves in our shoes, which is critical.’  

    ‘Proactive about talking to us about the new virtual asset regulatory framework that’s been proposed in Hong Kong. This is an indication that they’re proactive about being involved in industry developments and seeking comment and feedback from the industry.’

    ‘Very strong understanding of the regulatory requirements and nuances with a pragmatic approach underpinned by strong legal skills.’

    ‘Urszula McCormack, Evan Manolios and Minny Siu. All three of them have depth and breadth in financial services regulation. A team that spans the breadth of financial services regulation, from regulation on SFC-licensed entities to emerging fintech companies.’

    Minter Ellison

    Minter Ellison is highly regarded for its credentials in the contentious regulatory space, where it handles issues concerning market misconduct, disciplinary cases and false trading, among other offences. The team is also noted for its advice to regulators in the accounting, financial and insurance sectors. David Morrison leads the department, where Desmond Yu and Nathan Dentice are also key figures. The practice has been undergoing changes: January 2021 saw the appointments of consultants Ferheen Mahomed and Jeffrey Alam from in-house departments, which was followed by the departure of David Harrington to Kirkland & Ellis in March 2021.

    Practice head(s):

    David Morrison

    Testimonials

    ‘Competent and knowledgeable. Not just being professional, way beyond that.’

    ‘The pick of the legal team is good and definitely with thoughts. Caring and thoughtful.’

    ‘Strong knowledge of Hong Kong regulatory environment. The team is unstuffy, proactive and knowledgeable.’

    ‘David Morrison, Nathan Dentice and Desmond Yu are all practical, sensible and down-to earth lawyers who make themselves available to clients. They produce clear advice and strategies for clients.’

    ‘David Morrison has long been a leading financial regulatory lawyer in Hong Kong. Nathan Dentice is building a strong practice and reputation and is very capable.’

    ‘Extensive knowledge, not just on my subject matter, and together with experience. The ability to analyse from the big picture to the fine details is also another aspect that impressed me most.’

    Key clients

    Noble Group Limited

    The Stock Exchange of Hong Kong

    Financial Reporting Council

    The Hong Kong Institute of Certified Public Accountants

    BHP International Markets

    CITIC Group

    Pacific Andes International Holdings Limited

    Hong Kong Competition Commission

    Shine Grace Investment Limited; Shinning International Holdings Limited; Bonds & Sons International Limited

    Work highlights

    • Advised four former executive directors of Magic Holdings International Limited on Market Misconduct Tribunal proceedings commenced against them concerning the acquisition by cosmetic giant L’Oréal SA of all the issued shares of Magic in April 2014, the first MMT case relating to an alleged breach of the disclosure requirements under Part XIVA of the SFO in a ‘takeover’ scenario.
    • Advised Pacific Andes International Holdings and its related subsidiaries in relation to the investigations commenced by the SFC and the Monetary Authority of Singapore/Commercial Affairs Department in Singapore; and the forensic review of PAIH’s accounts by RSM Corporate Advisory (Hong Kong) Limited commissioned by PAIH’s independent review committee.
    • Routinely advising the HKEx in relation to the discharge of the HKEx’s regulatory functions, including providing non-contentious advice on the application of and changes to the HKEx’s Main Board and GEM Listing Rules, and advising the Listing Committee, the Listing Review Committee and the Listing Appeals Committee of the HKEx on the conduct of review and disciplinary cases under the Listing Rules, and representing the HKEx in judicial review and other court proceedings, some of which will attract high degree of attention in Hong Kong when the decisions are ultimately handed down.

    Stephenson Harwood

    Stephenson Harwood counts both contentious and non-contentious regulatory work among its key strengths. Non-contentious group lead Mark Reed has extensive experience of advising financial institutions. Ian Childs leads the contentious group and is a key contact for regulatory investigations and disciplinary actions. Katherine Liu is regularly retained by fintech companies for general corporate and compliance advice. Associate Conrad Lam is also adept at handling compliance and licensing issues.

    Practice head(s):

    Mark Reed; Ian Childs

    Other key lawyers:

    Katherine Liu; Conrad Lam; James Wong

    Testimonials

    Katherine Liu is knowledgeable, succinct on issues while providing practical advice and considerate to developments of the economy & respective market trends. Always easy to work with‘.

    Conrad Lam is sizing up to be a valuable future external legal resource, with a deep understanding of the financial industry issues and key trends‘.

    Key clients

    Airstar Bank Limited

    PrimeCredit Limited

    Futu Securities International (Hong Kong) Limited

    Futu Lending Limited

    Twopresents Limited

    OnePlatform Asset Management Limited

    Svenska Handelsbanken AB (publ), Hong Kong branch

    Airwallex (Hong Kong) Limited

    HKT Flexi Limited

    China Construction Bank (Asia) Corporation Limited

    Work highlights

    • Assisted Airstar, one of the first entities to secure a virtual banking licence from the Hong Kong Monetary Authority, in preparing its client documentation, including terms and conditions of virtual banking services (for individual clients), personal loan documentation, mobile application terms of use and privacy policy.
    • Advised TwoPresents, a Hong Kong-incorporated online charitable fundraising not-for-profit platform, on whether it needs any financial regulatory licence for its charitable fund-raising and money-processing activities; what it should do to comply with the anti-money laundering legislation; whether it would hold money on trust and the consequences of that; and the content of its online terms of operation.

    Gibson Dunn

    Gibson Dunn significantly bolstered its regulatory offering in the spring of 2021, when a team of four led by William Hallatt joined from Herbert Smith Freehills. The group is experienced in providing advice in the financial services sector, where it acts for a mix of international banks, financial institutions and exchanges, among other market players; it is particularly adept at engaging with regulators such as the Hong Kong Securities & Futures Commission as well as the Hong Kong Monetary Authority. For more innovative mandates in the fintech sector, the team draws on the expertise of the firm’s TMT specialists.

    Practice head(s):

    William Hallatt

    Work highlights

    • Advised one of the world’s leading international investment banks on an investigation by the Securities and Futures Commission into its role as sponsor of an IPO.
    • Advised multiple financial institutions, including a number of international asset managers, on the implications of the new National Security Law in Hong Kong.
    • Advised one of the world’s largest private wealth managers on its investigation into the alleged mis-selling of financial products over a number of years and its reporting to the Hong Kong Monetary Authority and the Securities and Futures Commission.

    Kennedys

    Noted for its ability to assist financial sector clients, Kennedys places an emphasis on handling investigations and proceedings brought in relation to allegations of corporate crime, fraud, bribery and corruption. The team is also adept at handling general compliance issues in the insurance and securities sectors. Department head Kevin Yam  draws on a wealth of experience previously gained as an in-house practitioner in the accounting space.

    Practice head(s):

    Kevin Yam

    Other key lawyers:

    Rudy Chung; Rachel Yuen; Bertha Ng

    Testimonials

    ‘Kevin Yam and his team are well versed in financial regulatory matters in Hong Kong, with the much needed Chinese-language capability in the current legal climate. While many practitioners claim expertise in this area, Kevin is one of the few names whom I often come across in the many cases that I’ve handled.’

    ‘Kevin Yam is experienced and conscientious. Kevin and his team’s no-nonsense practical approach is efficient, leading to solutions.’

    Kevin Yam combines expertise in financial law and regulation, knowledge about the capital markets and commercial practice, and sensitivity to client needs. He is very insightful about what is happening in the financial regulatory space and can advise clients how best to get out of their troubles‘.

    Rudy Chung can work under extreme pressure and keep cool and channel everyone’s attention back to solving the problem at hand‘.

    Work highlights

    • Acted for Four former non-executive and independent non-executive directors of Magic Holdings International Limited (a former Hong Kong listed company that is now part of L’Oreal group) in Market Misconduct Tribunal proceedings in relation to allegations that Magic Holdings failed to disclose inside information in the context of a major acquisition.
    • Acting for the chairman of a high-profile listed company in connection with criminal and regulatory investigations that involved the first ever joint operations between the ICAC and the SFC, as well as associated civil proceedings.

    Latham & Watkins LLP

    Latham & Watkins LLP handles regulatory, general compliance and risk management matters for a number of financial institutions and fintech sector clients. The practice benefits significantly from its full integration into the firm’s global regulatory, litigation and transactional offering; litigator Catherine McBride specialises in contentious work both domestically and at cross-border level. Recently promoted partner Simon Hawkins heads up the practice and is a key contact for non-contentious advice in the financial sector.

    Practice head(s):

    Simon Hawkins

    Key clients

    Bank of America

    Credit Suisse

    HSBC

    CLSA

    China Life Insurance (Overseas) Company Limited

    Hong Kong Exchange and Clearing Limited

    Bank of Singapore

    Goldman Sachs

    Raine Group

    Warburg Pincus

    BTIG LLC

    OSL Digital Securities Limited and BC Group

    SFM HK Management Limited

    Kroll Bond Rating Agency Ltd

    Toscafund Asset Management LLP

    Itau Unibanco

    Futu Holdings Ltd

    Work highlights

    • Advised Grosvenor Capital Management on obtaining Hong Kong regulatory approval on the business combination between, and CF Finance Acquisition Corp., a special purpose acquisition company sponsored by Cantor Fitzgerald.
    • Advised the underwriters in the secondary listing and $1.07bn initial public offering of Trip.com, a leading one-stop travel platform globally, on the Main Board of The Stock Exchange of Hong Kong Limited on Hong Kong regulatory aspects.
    • Advised Warburg Pincus to obtain Hong Kong regulatory approval on its acquisition of 20.48% stake in ARA Asset Management Holdings Pte. Limited.

    Norton Rose Fulbright

    Norton Rose Fulbright focuses on a wide scope of regulatory issues relating to market entry, licensing and compliance, to name a few. The firm is also turning into a go-to destination for mandates relating to payment services, ESG initiatives and fintech. Led by Etelka Bogardi, the practice counts multiple large banks, asset and wealth management companies and regulators among its prominent financial sector clients.

    Practice head(s):

    Etelka Bogardi

    Key clients

    IS Prime

    Royal Bank of Canada

    Work highlights

    • Advising a global investment manager on all aspects of its Hong Kong operation involving sanctions, AML obligations, SFC requirements relating to asset managers and investment management regulations.
    • Advising a start-up in the online wealth and lifestyle management space on the rollout of its platform for the Hong Kong market, and navigating key and emerging regulatory issues in the FinTech space.
    • Advised the private bank at a US headquartered international bank on the regulatory issues surrounding the dissemination of materials to high-net-worth and ultra-high-net-worth clients in relation to fixed income products involving Hong Kong, Singapore and US.