Not for love of money, but of Humanity. "Greater is he who works for the good of all, then he who works for the good of himself only" ~ Matthew 25:40: "The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'"- (NIV). I live in Singapore where the Emperor must not be disturbed.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

How cheap (easy) can it be for the rich to hold Justice/ the Court hostage in Singapore?

The short answer: just ~0.05% of the claim amount sought. (caveat: see below)

I read with interest: 'Ex-UOB head's kin sue fund managers over $139m portfolio'[ST, 19July2013](appended below in quotes)
Which presuming it is a case heard over 15 days:

Court Hearing Fees (Value of claim above S$1million)
1st to 3rd day: Free;
4th day- S$9,000.00 per day or part thereof
5th day- S$3,000.00 per day or part thereof
6th to 10th day- S$5,000.00 per day
11th day onwards- S$7,000.00 per day

Price for (assumed) 15 day hearing of S$139million case: (0 X 3)+(9k)+(3k)+(5k X 5)+(7k X 5)= 72k.

S$72k as compared to the notional value of the claim of S$139million(actual claim amount (/damages received) not (/not yet) reported (/established in the claim) is ~ 0.052% of the claim value... how is this equitable since such rich people with equality complicated problems also hire the best (/ most expensive) probably also speak very fast, quoting complex case history to win the case for their clients and submitting thousands if not more pages of documentation before hearing... surely giving judges big headaches trying to solve such cases.

Given that any case in excess of S$250K is to be heard in the high court [SG litigation guide] even (assumed) 7days hearing for such a case would be S$14k (see fees at [link]) which is 5.6% of the claim amount, making it more than 100X more expensive to hear a smaller case in the high court than it is to hear the S$139M case.

Given to the fact that the court hearing fees of S$12k or more would be prohibitory to poorer Singaporeans, perhaps the ideal court hearing fees should be adjusted to say 3% of the value of the claim/ damages received (American lawyers I understand can charge up to 33% of damages received ('Andy Ho; ST: Let David take on Goliath in court: Champerty'))

Of course, a reasonable minimum daily hearing fee may prevail (or supersede the proportional fee) to encourage litigants to be concise rather then to win cases by attempting to tire out the opponent/ Judge physically/ waste time unnecessarily, the final liability for such costs falling in line with damages granted(/paid).

Certainly, good administration of justice means achieving justice for all, in which the charging hearing fees equitably is essential. After all, the Judiciary shouldn't focus on being the mouthpiece for politicians or the rich ("the Court was reluctant to set a precedent that would potentially require the Government to defend more court cases, diverting time and resources away from the day-to-day governance of the nation"['What court decision on by-election reveals', TDY, 06Aug2013] ) but on their saintly duties as priest in the temple of justice.

In a land where the rich are able to bring their antics to court for such a relatively miniscule fee (~0.05%) to the sum contested/ damages sought, have the courts in Singapore become a playground for the rich?

Does the exploitation of the loophole of fixed hearing fees of the high court result in "time and resources" of high court judges being held hostage to the private squabbles of the rich and their eloquent lawyers?

Judges should never stoop to become prostitutes charging a fixed fee. The rich and their lawyers (Senior Councils) with the time and luxury to spin/ invest complex and colorful investment products are sophisticated investors whose complex disputes oft attract equally colorful and stratospheric legal costs; judges should avoid prostituting fixed fees, just to be in attendance, in the fleeting company of the rich and their smooth talking lawyers. Whatever earned from the rich can be used to help the poor, whatever time wasted only means non-access to justice for millions of neglected poor.

To the extent that court fees (and other legal costs) have become prohibitively expensive for use by the poor- the temples of Justice in Singapore have become a den of thieves
--- --- --- ---
Caveat: S$139 Million was used in calculations because it is the headline of the article: ''Ex-UOB head's kin sue fund managers over $139m portfolio'[ST, 19July2013]'

Ex-UOB head's kin sue fund managers over $139m portfolio
Straits Times; 19 Jul 2013; Ian Poh
TWO nephews of the former head of UOB have taken their fund managers to court over investments worth US$110 million (S$139 million).
Brothers Wee Boo Kuan, 47, and Wee Boo Tee, 45, are asking the High Court to order CS Partners and two other individuals to return them a private equity funds portfolio, and to provide detailed accounts of investments made since 2005.
The men are nephews of former UOB chairman Wee Cho Yaw. Their mother, Madam Cheong Soh Chin, is also party to the case.
Co-defendants Eng Chiet Shoong and his wife Sylvia Lee Siew Yuen, understood to be in their 60s, are counter-claiming some US$17 million in management fees and related expenses plus an indemnity for any expenses incurred in returning the investments.
One issue is whether CS Partners gave regular information and updates to the brothers on their investments. These span 15 private equity funds and direct investment projects.
The brothers' lawyer, Senior Counsel Philip Jeyaretnam, said the pair are high net-worth individuals who were "charmed" by Mr Eng into entrusting him with the "bulk of their family wealth" in a seven-year business relationship dating back to 2005.
Mr Jeyaretnam said in his opening statement yesterday that Mr Eng and Ms Lee had acted in a "disorganised and opaque manner" and were uncooperative when asked to return the investments.
Their fund managers, however, claim all reasonable steps had been taken since the brothers asked them in December 2011 to sell up or return the investments.
Until then, their clients had not complained about how their investments had been managed or the information given to them.
The defendants claim the plaintiffs had even "generally expressed satisfaction" with the information and said the documents being asked for now are "unreasonably wide and unjustified".
In his opening submissions, defence lawyer, Senior Counsel Alvin Yeo, said the three plaintiffs' "real displeasure" - including dissatisfaction with a file of documents given last year to account for the investments - stems from financial problems beginning in 2009. These forced them to sell some investments.
The investment relationship between both sides started in 2005 after Ms Lee introduced the brothers - who were her family friends - to her husband, a former employee of the private equity arm of the Government of Singapore Investment Corp.
Mr Eng introduced the brothers to some private equity funds and they later hired CS Partners to manage their investments after Ms Lee established the firm.
The plaintiffs had invested about US$129 million in private equity funds as of early 2008, according to court documents.
The hearing continues today.
Source: Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Permission required for reproduction.
Disclaimer: The author is not a lawyer and this is personal opinion.

Justice, Accessibility, Court, hearing, fees, equability, fairness, government, hostage, crime, litigation, damages, lawyer, champerty,
07Aug2013: How cheap (easy) can it be for the rich to hold Justice hostage in Singapore?
07Aug2013: How cheap (easy) can it be for the rich to hold Justice/ the Court hostage in Singapore?
07Aug2013: How cheap (easy) can it be for the rich to hold Justice/ the Court hostage in Singapore?
07Aug2013: How cheap (easy) can it be for the rich to hold Justice/ the Court hostage in Singapore?

07Aug2013: How cheap (easy) can it be for the rich to hold Justice/ the Court hostage in Singapore?

07Aug2013: How cheap (easy) can it be for the rich to hold Justice/ the Court hostage in Singapore?
07Aug2013: How cheap (easy) can it be for the rich to hold Justice/ the Court hostage in Singapore?

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