April 02, 2021 Articles

Serving as an Expert Witness in a Foreign Tribunal

A Singapore trial courtroom is quite different from what we have come to expect in the United States.

By Howard Ehrenberg

In 2019 I was employed as an expert witness to provide opinions on American bankruptcy law for a trial in the International Commercial Court in Singapore. The dispute was whether the plaintiff probate estate or an individual defendant (our client) was the rightful owner of a Singapore business.

Background of Case

Twenty years earlier, an American retailer owned by the estate’s decedent went through a Chapter 11 bankruptcy in Los Angeles. The decedent set up a New Zealand shell corporation to purchase the assets of the Chapter 11 debtor but concealed her ownership interest from the bankruptcy court. The New Zealand company then transferred the acquired assets to the Singapore company at issue. Our client owned the Singapore entity, but the decedent controlled its operations and paid our client 5 percent of the company’s profits. Upon the decedent’s death, the estate claimed that the decedent was the actual owner of the Singapore business. At issue during trial was whether our client was the constructive trustee of the Singapore company for the estate (for which the defense engaged a trust expert), and whether the decedent had committed a fraud on the bankruptcy court two decades earlier. 

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