Singapore makes milestone decision on IMF Bentham Litigation Funding Agreement
The ruling, made by Singapore High Court’s Justice Chua Lee Ming on 11 September 2018, will allow the funding of investigations and potential claims to proceed in the context of a major corporate collapse costing Singaporean retail investors hundreds of millions of dollars.
The funding agreement – funded by funds associated with IMF Bentham, one of the world’s leading litigation funders – will support investigations and potential claims led by Luke Furler and Cameron Duncan of KordaMentha, liquidators of Trikomsel Pte Ltd and Trikomsel Singapore Pte Ltd, two subsidiaries used to raise more than $SGD200million in the Singapore bond market for PT Trikomsel Oke Tbk (Trikomsel), an Indonesian telco.
Trikomsel suffered a sudden financial collapse in 2015-2016 and the bonds were not repaid, resulting in substantial losses for Singaporean investors.
Tom Glasgow, IMF Bentham’s Chief Investment Officer – Asia said: “Justice Chua’s decision is an important step forward in the interests of the Trikomsel bondholders. Without IMF Bentham’s funding, the liquidators’ investigations and any resulting proceedings could not be pursued”.
Mr Glasgow said the decision will also have wider implications for the pursuit of investigations and claims arising out of failed corporations in Singapore. It reflects the city-state’s increasing but careful liberalisation of the dispute resolution finance industry, supporting Singapore’s ambition to remain a global and regional hub for international arbitration, litigation and insolvency proceedings.
In early 2017, Singapore passed legislation which abolished the medieval torts of maintenance and champerty (which previously acted as a barrier to the funding of commercial disputes) and clarified the validity of funding in Singapore-seated international arbitrations. This most recent ruling complements Justice Chua’s 2015 decision in Re Vanguard Energy Pte Ltd  SGHC 156, which approved funding by former shareholders in an action arising out of an insolvency. Singapore’s policy-makers are expected to continue gradually opening up to other categories of commercial dispute funding beyond arbitration and insolvency proceedings. This ruling also demonstrates the willingness of the Singapore courts to, in an appropriate case, develop the common law where legislation is not in place.
Mr Glasgow said: “Justice Chua’s decision not only benefits the creditors of these two companies, but paves the way for Singapore’s liquidators, judicial managers and bankruptcy trustees to gain access to justice using litigation funding in future cases for the benefit of their creditors.”
“Based on current demand, with this decision IMF Bentham now expects an increasing workload of insolvency cases to match the exponential growth in demand for arbitration funding which we’ve received since opening here in Singapore last year.”
Mr Luke Furler, Partner at KordaMentha, one of the joint liquidators of the company, noted the following:
“We are pleased with the outcome of today’s hearing and the significance of this, not only to the creditors of these companies who now have an additional angle for recoveries, but also to the wider Singapore insolvency market. We would like to express our sincere appreciation to the team at BlackOak, IMF Bentham and Justice Chua Lee Ming in making today’s ruling. We will be making a formal announcement through the appropriate channels in due course”.
The liquidators were represented in the hearing by BlackOak LLC’s director and leading restructuring and insolvency specialist, Ashok Kumar. Mr Kumar said of the decision: “This is an important ruling building on the court’s decision in Re Vanguard. It confirms that commercial funding of claims arising out of an insolvency is permitted in Singapore and provides direction in an area that is fast developing in Singapore. This is a helpful decision for all of us operating in this space.”
About IMF Bentham
IMF Bentham is one of the leading global litigation funders, headquartered in Australia and with offices in the US, Singapore, Canada, Hong Kong and the UK. IMF Bentham has built its reputation as a trusted provider of innovative litigation funding solutions and has established an increasingly diverse portfolio of litigation funding assets.
IMF Bentham has a highly experienced litigation funding team overseeing its investments. IMF Bentham has a 90% success rate over 175 completed investments and has recovered over A$1.4 billion for clients since 2001.
For further information regarding IMF Bentham and its activities, please visit www.imf.sg or www.imf.com.au