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Hong Kong > Restructuring and insolvency > Law firm and leading lawyer rankings

Editorial

Index of tables

  1. Restructuring and insolvency
  2. Leading individuals
  3. Next Generation Partners

Leading individuals

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Next Generation Partners

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Benefiting from 'deep technical knowledge and expertise in the restructuring and insolvency field', DLA Piper's three-partner team has 'deep expertise and creative ways of applying the law to come up with practical and innovative solutions for complex issues' on behalf of a broad roster of stakeholders including banks, funds, insolvency practitioners and corporates. 'Very experienced' team head Mark Fairbairn is praised for his 'deep technical knowledge, creativity and practical knowledge'; he continues to spearhead many of the most significant matters in the region including advising the ad hoc group of holders of $550m of New York law-governed bonds in connection with the enforcement of their rights against China Shanshui Cement. Praised for his 'very strong cross-border insolvency and restructuring background', Jonathan Leitch adds value to clients by virtue of his 'in-depth knowledge of not just Hong Kong and English law but also familiarity with PRC and US law'. Leitch continues to represent Rabobank, Standard Chartered Bank and DBS Bank as major creditors of the Pacific Andes Group of companies. Ashley Bell has extensive experience in disputes related to cross-border restructuring matters.

'One of the undoubted standouts in the region', Kirkland & Ellis' 'superb' three-partner team handles work for a varied array of stakeholders including bondholders, banks and corporates, and is well placed to handle work involving high-yield bonds and other more complex capital structures by virtue of its US heritage. Praised for its ability to 'really add value on sprawling cross-border insolvencies', this continues to be typified by Neil McDonald's representation, involving input from the firm's London and Chicago offices, of troubled Singapore-listed commodities trader Noble Group on its $4bn restructuring. Damien Coles' varied caseload sees him handling restructuring, insolvency and special situations work, in addition to drawing on his expertise in Indian restructuring work; he is assisting an ad hoc committee of senior secured noteholders of $300m-worth of debt with its restructuring strategy for distressed Indian corporate Reliance Communications. The team is rounded out at partner level by Kelly Naphtali, who has a focus on handling complex contentious cross-border insolvency matters.

Operating in the region for a number of years, Mayer Brown's three-partner team is 'able to provide insightful advice across a range of sectors and geographies'; it 'draws on significant expertise from its global network as necessary', and 'continues to demonstrate considerable breadth and depth of practice and a commitment to innovation in handling a wide range of high-value corporate debt restructurings'. With experience acting for creditors, insolvency practitioners and corporate trustees, the team has 'a particular strength in the bank workout field', and is aided in this sphere by its ability to utilise Chapter 11 procedures by dint of its US heritage. 'Highly experienced and well-respected' group head John Marsden is representing Maybank on the $1.5bn restructuring of Pacific Andes, and advising the petitioning bank creditor and the provisional liquidators appointed in Hong Kong and Bermuda on the restructuring of Z-Obee. 'Combining innovative solutions with a pragmatic approach', Tom Pugh demonstrates 'significant technical expertise on a variety of complex cross-border issues', and as well as his involvement alongside Marsden in the Pacific Andes matter also continues to act for the Hong Kong liquidators of Lehman Brothers. At associate level, Dirk Behnsen 'offers practical problem-solving combined with a great work ethic'. Solicitor-advocate Richard Tollan has left the firm.

The 'very strong' two-partner team at Tanner De Witt has 'an excellent reputation for contentious insolvency matters'; it receives a raft of mandates from insolvency practitioners and, partly because of its independent Hong Kong status, referral work from international law firms to advise on the Hong Kong aspects of cross-border matters. The 'excellent' Ian De Witt has been advising ENRE Holdings as a major creditor on the restructuring of Petrocom; notably De Witt recently successfully stayed the winding-up order against Petrocom, enabling the company to recommence its trading operations. Robin Darton has a strong reputation on both the creditor and the debtor side for his ability to represent the office-holders or directors of troubled companies. Much of Darton's work includes multi-jurisdictional matters, with a significant proportion flowing from offshore issues. Additional clients include KPMG, Borrelli Walsh, FTI Consulting and KordaMentha. Associate Sunny Hathiramani is also recommended.

Benefiting from 'a strong team' in Hong Kong that acts as a fulcrum for clients across pan-Asian matters, and able to leverage the firm's top-tier restructuring prowess out of London and the US, Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP excels at handling cross-border work with a pan-Asian scope for bondholders. Working closely with lawyers in the London office, 'excellent' team head Naomi Moore is representing a committee of unsecured creditors on the proposed restructuring of $3.5bn-worth of bond and bank debt issued by Noble Group. Moore also recently successfully concluded the restructuring on behalf of an ad hoc group of holders of $375m-worth of convertible bonds issued by a subsidiary of Indonesian company PT Bumi Resources. Mark Fucci recently retired.

Leveraging the firm's huge international network, in addition to being able to tap into the expertise of lawyers based out of Hong Kong with litigation, regulatory, finance and corporate expertise, Clifford Chance is well-placed to handle multi-jurisdictional insolvencies/restructurings with a pan-Asian nexus. 'Excellent team head Scott Bache has strong ties with numerous funds clients and banks, including Orchard Capital Partners which he is representing on a series of complex restructurings and recapitalisation plans for Terracom, a coal miner with projects in Mongolia and Australia. Bache also recently acted for a syndicate of banks, including BNP Paribas, in relation to their exposure to Mongolian Mining Corporation. Other highlights include representing the liquidators of certain entities in the Pacific Andes group, including with respect to ongoing US bankruptcy proceedings of other entities within the group. Consultant Joanna Charter is also recommended.

Able to leverage the prowess of superb finance and restructuring lawyers spread across its global network of offices, Latham & Watkins LLP 's three-partner team has 'an excellent reputation' in the market on behalf of a wide array of stakeholders including insolvency practitioners, corporates, funds and banks. 'Superb' team head Howard Lam has strong credentials in the Asia-Pacific market and is regularly at the forefront of the team's most significant mandates. In co-ordination with the Singapore office, Lam recently advised a group of syndicated lenders on the $4.5bn debt restructuring of PT Bumi Resources. Solicitor-advocate Simon Powell has an excellent reputation for handling contentious insolvency matters, and continues to represent China Life on all aspects of the winding-up proceedings against Yu Rui, a company incorporated in the Bahamas. The presence of US-qualified partner Josef Athanas is of particular benefit to clients where documentation is governed by US law.

With two partners focused solely on insolvency/restructuring work based out of the Hong Kong office and also able to bring in commercial litigators on contentious insolvency matters should the need arise,  Linklaters is 'very highly regarded in the market' on behalf of banks, funds and IPs. As well as generating work on its own, the team also feeds off other departments within the firm, and has derived a considerable amount of work of late from the firm's capital markets team on bond issuances in the Asia Pacific region which are beginning to show signs of stress. The 'highly experienced' David Kidd leads the firm's Asia Pacific restructuring and insolvency practice and has vast experience in mandates impacting on all the major jurisdictions in the region including China, Singapore and India. Recent highlights include his representation of the lenders as creditors to a major distressed Indian corporate in relation to its high-profile restructuring. Newly promoted partner James Warboys is active on both the creditor and debtor front and is a key practitioner within the team which also includes counsel Matthew Worth, who is praised for his 'ability provide fearless advice often in the context of matters involving stakeholders with very different strategies'.  Clients include Standard Chartered Bank, PwC and HSBC.

The 'very competent' team at Ropes & Gray LLP has 'significant depth of knowledge and good visibility across the market', particularly on behalf of bondholders subject to significant debt exposure in Asia-Pacific-related restructurings. 'Very proactive and knowledgeable' team head Daniel Anderson excels at handling deals within the 'more bespoke and structured parts of the market', and adds particular commercial value by dint of his former in-house role within the special situations team at Citadel in Asia. Hong Kong- and New York-qualified as well as being fluent in Mandarin, Anderson excels at complex cross-border mandates involving multi-jurisdictional schemes of arrangement and US proceedings. Among his recent highlights, he recently advised the ad hoc committee of bondholders on the $760m Mongolian Mining Corporation restructuring, the first and largest bondholder restructuring ever for Mongolia. While the team remains undoubtedly best-known for its bondholder practice, it has begun to pick up an increased flow of debtor-side work, most notably recently acting for the liquidators of LDK Solar on all aspects of its restructuring and insolvency. Kathleen Berkeley was recently made up to partner in recognition of her 'excellent work' in contentious and non-contentious restructuring and insolvency-related matters.

Praised for its 'excellent overall level of service and technical expertise', though it is smaller than many of the higher-ranked firms in the rankings, Allen & Overy's department can work in coordination with complementary practice groups including finance, corporate and litigation should the need arise. The team also often works closely with lawyers from across the firm's vast network of offices; its ability to provide the full range of solutions to an eclectic mix of stakeholders, not just from a local perspective but also utilising US Chapter 11 procedures or UK schemes of arrangement, is appreciated by clients on complex multi-jurisdictional matters. 'Technically adept' team head Richard Woodworth is 'an excellent team player' and was recently a key part of a multi-office team (including practitioners from Europe, US and Asia) that acted on behalf of China Development Bank, one of the core creditors of the Suntech Power group. Woodworth is also advising ING Bank as one of the creditors on the high-profile Noble Group restructuring. Recently promoted to of counsel, Emily Tillett is garnering a strong reputation in the market for handling contentious insolvency matters.

Baker McKenzie is well-placed to handle Greater China-related restructurings and insolvencies by virtue of not only housing numerous practitioners in Hong Kong but also in mainland China with significant insolvency expertise. Although the team handles work for a range of stakeholders on both the creditor and debtor side, it has been particularly active on behalf of insolvency practitioners on numerous pan-Asian insolvencies. Kwun Yee Cheung has been at the forefront of most of these instructions, including her work for the official receiver of Hong Kong on the insolvency of Bank of Credit and Commerce Hong Kong, and the liquidators of General Nice Resources on its multi-jurisdictional insolvency. Solicitor-advocate Gary Seib regularly handles insolvency litigation as part of his broader commercial litigation prowess.

As the oldest and largest independent law firm in Hong Kong, Deacons has close ties with many IPs and funds, and also regularly receives referral work from foreign law firms with regard to the Hong Kong aspects of cross-border insolvencies. Particularly noted for his formal insolvency prowess, Richard Hudson is 'very competent and gets to grips with the key issues very quickly'. Hudson recently advised Rad Source Technologies in bringing winding up proceedings against its Hong Kong subsidiary in respect of unpaid debts. On the non-contentious front, Philip Gilligan regularly handles the Hong Kong aspects of international restructuring work and also has experience of handling debt trading and non-performing loan transactions.

Aided by an increasingly global international footprint, Eversheds Sutherland is gaining market recognition for its ability to advise creditors and debtors on complex multi-jurisdictional insolvency/restructuring mandates. Led by the 'excellent' Kingsley Ong, and aided by associate Eleanor Lau, the Hong Kong office is coordinating (across four continents) the firm's representation of leading US guitar firm Gibson on the planning and execution of its insolvency strategy following the breakdown of negotiations with its major creditors. Ong is also recognised as an 'expert in the unwinding of complex financial instruments', a skill which is of particular value in relation to his ongoing representation of KPMG, as Hong Kong liquidators of derivatives brokerage MF Global and investment bank Lehman Brothers on their respective high-profile and long-running insolvencies.

Now with only one partner based in Hong Kong, Hogan Lovells' capacity to handle a significant volume and diversity of matters has been somewhat reduced; nevertheless, it regularly works alongside key Asian offices including in Singapore to provide 'a strong offering on the contentious front' for insolvency practitioners and banks such as Borrelli Walsh, FTI Consulting, Standard Chartered Bank and KPMG. The 'excellent' Chris Dobby is the primary contact in the Hong Kong office and, by virtue of his accreditation as one of the few solicitor-advocates with higher rights of audience, is able to advocate in Hong Kong’s higher court. With assistance from well-regarded senior associate Karen Chan, Dobby continues to represent the liquidators of Akai in relation to Akai’s liquidation and the ongoing investigation and recovery actions against its former chairman.

Recognised as 'one of the busiest contentious insolvency practices in Hong Kong', Lipman Karas handles a tremendous volume of work for insolvency practitioners in relation to insolvencies in the region. The team is noted for its expert work in relation to asset tracing and has 'cornered the market in relation to audit negligence claims'. Hong Kong- and Australian-qualified solicitor-advocate Tim Kentish is 'a rising star', noted for his expertise in the investigation and pursuit of claims arising out of major corporate collapses. James Wood and Jason Karas are also recommended.

Headed by the 'very sensible and commercial' Jamie Stranger, Stephenson Harwood provides 'excellent service' to an impressive roster of insolvency practitioners including Deloitte, Baker Tilly and Borelli Walsh. Noted for his 'extensive insolvency and litigation experience', Stranger has a particular focus on contentious insolvency matters and is acting for the joint provisional liquidators (JPLs) on the Hong Kong aspects of the provisional liquidation and potential restructuring of CECEP COSTIN New Materials, work that has included advice on disputes with the landlord in Hong Kong and obtaining a foreign recognition order from the Hong Kong Court setting out the JPLs' powers in Hong Kong. Ivan Ng is also noted for his contentious insolvency work, while 'very proactive' senior associate Eloise Fardon has successfully built up the office's increased flow of non-contentious restructuring work, including her advice to Winsway Enterprises Holding on the restructuring of $310m-worth of New York law-governed notes.

Led out of Hong Kong by banking and restructuring partner Baldwin Cheng, White & Case is particularly well-equipped to handle restructuring work for banks, either on matters where the firm handled the original loan documentation or in standalone restructuring matters. Often working closely with practitioners based across the firm's significant Asia Pacific network of offices, including Singapore, Seoul and Tokyo, and also benefiting from expertise in financing documentation and strategies governed by English and US law,  the team is well-placed to handle complex multi-jurisdictional matters. Aided by litigator Melody Chan, Chen is representing China Minsheng Banking Corporation on the restructuring of its $430m facility to Grande Cache Coal, a Canadian coal mining company owned by Marubeni Corp. and Winsway Enterprises Holdings.

Utilising practitioners from within the firm's finance and dispute resolution teams to resource matters, although Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer lacks a discrete standalone restructuring offering, it nevertheless displays a 'fluid approach' and consequently provides a nimble service on behalf of a varied array of stakeholders including banks, funds, corporates and IPs. Recent highlights include Andrew Heathcote's representation of PwC in connection of the implementation of Asia Television's Hong Kong Scheme of Arrangement. Litigator Nick Stern regularly handles contentious insolvency matters.

Dispute resolution boutique Gall regularly handles contentious insolvency matters on behalf of insolvency practitioners and debtors, and also often receives referral work from overseas law firms. Evelyn Chan rejoined the firm in November 2017 from Wilkinson & Grist, and, as part of her general commercial litigation expertise, has significant experience in contentious insolvency work, particularly as it relates to asset tracing. Senior partner Nick Gall continues to represent the liquidators of Cyberworks Audio Visual Technology; notably this matter led to Hong Kong’s first written decision on litigation funding in insolvency administrations. Chris Wong is also recommended.

Although it lacks a standalone restructuring and insolvency team, Herbert Smith Freehills 'holds its own in the Hong Kong market' by its ability to leverage the skill-sets of lawyers in the finance and litigation practice groups, and therefore to provide 'strong service' to insolvency practitioners, banks and funds on both contentious and restructuring matters. 'A very experienced and capable litigator', Gareth Thomas is recognised as 'a savvy operator' and is defending DBS Bank against a High Court action brought by the liquidators of Galleria (Hong Kong) claiming, inter alia, that the bank was a knowing party to Galleria's intent to defraud creditors when it provided a loan to the business. Senior associate Jeremy Haywood is also a key member of the team and is ' gaining increasing traction in the Hong Kong market'. Other clients include FTI Consulting, Goldman Sachs and PwC.

Leveraging the expertise of lawyers from the firm's corporate, finance and litigation practice areas, and aided by a strong presence in mainland China, King & Wood Mallesons' multi-disciplinary team handles a broad array of pan-Asian insolvency and restructuring matters for insolvency practitioners, corporates and banks. Litigator Edmund Wan excels in contentious insolvency matters; he is advising the liquidators of Tian Jian Hua Xia Medical Group on the recovery actions and all other ancillary steps in the process of liquidation in Hong Kong. Splitting her time between the firm's Hong Kong and Beijing offices, US- and Hong Kong-qualified partner Helena Huang has more of a transactional and restructuring bent to her practice, and excels at handling China-related cross-border restructuring of global conglomerates and private equity portfolio companies. Barbara Chiu is also recommended.

One of Hong Kong's leading full-service independent law firms, Wilkinson & Grist, receives a mix of standalone instructions as well as referral work from international law firms, and regularly acts for liquidators of listed and private companies. Keith Ho and Lawrence Chan are two of the key contacts.

The 'resourceful and effective' team at litigation boutique Kobre & Kim provides 'responsive and robust advice' to a range of stakeholders engaged in multi-jurisdictional insolvency disputes, and, since it maintains no ongoing commercial arrangements with any clients, is able to provide a conflict-free service and an unfettered approach to litigation. The 'attentive' Randall Arthur is 'very understanding and supportive' and regularly acts for liquidators, receivers, creditors and trustees in, among other things, assisting with investigations into the company’s affairs; obtaining discovery orders; and conducting examinations and recovering assets, including through clawbacks and third-party claims.

Resourcing restructuring and insolvency mandates from the firm's banking and litigation departments respectively, Norton Rose Fulbright handles a significant volume of mandates for financial institutions, corporates and IPs across a range of industry sectors. Litigator Camille Jojo regularly handles contentious insolvency mandates, while banking and finance head Peter Haslam is well regarded for restructuring matters.

Leveraging 'excellent contacts' with local insolvency practitioners, ONC Lawyers is particularly well regarded for its 'very strong' contentious insolvency offering; it has 'a strong reputation in the market' for handling local insolvency matters for creditors and liquidators. The 'very good' Ludwig Ng leads on much of the highest-profile work handled by the firm.

Drawing upon practitioners from the firm's litigation and finance teams, Reed Smith Richards Butler provides 'very good service' to a primarily debtor-focused client base across contentious and non-contentious insolvency matters, particularly in the shipping sector, where the firm has particular industry knowledge. The 'highly competent' Desmond Liaw demonstrates 'an encyclopedic memory of key complex facts', and is praised for his 'openness to negotiation if it means ensuring a sensible, expeditious outcome for all parties'. Christopher Tang and Asha Sharma are also recommended.

Leveraging the firm's strong ties with banks, lessors and shipowners in the maritime space in particular, Watson Farley & Williams has continued to receive a significant amount of restructuring work in the industry despite a recent pickup in the sector. Madeline Leong and Christoforos Bisbikos handle restructuring work as part of their broader asset finance practices. Clients include BNP Paribas, ICBC Leasing, Bank of America and RBS.

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