Anand Raj has been a partner with Malaysian law firm Shearn Delamore & Co. since 2003. He was admitted as an Advocate & Solicitor of the High Court of Malaya in 1996. In this interview with Asia Law Portal, Anand details his practice and provides background about the firm.  He also provides his insights into how the practice of law has changed in Malaysia over the course of the last several decades.

You are Head of Tax Disputes Practice, Partner, Antitrust Practice, Shearn Delamore & Co. Tell us about the firm.

Our firm is 118 years old this year and once upon a time was owned and run by expatriates. Today we are a wholly owned Malaysian tier 1 firm in all major areas of civil law practice excluding family law and regular criminal law. We are the sole Malaysia member firm for the following networks – 

  • World Law Group (WLG)
  • World Services Group (WSG)
  • Employment Law Alliance (ELA) 
  • Drew Network Asia (DNA) 

Tax law and competition & antitrust law is your practice focus. Tell us more about this.

I stumbled into tax law practice as my former pupil master was a recognised and dedicated tax lawyer in Shearn Delamore & Co. and I was resolved to learn the law from him no matter what. He had been incarcerated without trial as a political prisoner in Singapore’s Changi prison under the Internal Security Act (ISA) for being a communist and I really wanted to learn his perspective on the law. One of the best decisions I ever made.  I chose to learn competition and antitrust sometime in 2010/2011 when the law was enacted in Malaysia and have spent more than a decade investing the time to be able to practise in this area. We have been fortunate to be widely and highly ranked in this area and have pioneered numerous Malaysian firsts in this area of practice E.g. first substantial case closed via undertakings, first successful merger control notification with MAVCOM, etc. 

You also maintain an interest in sports law. Tell us more about this.

I was asked to act for the Asian Football Confederation in a matter involving their former leadership. Copies of certain key documents were leaked by persons unknown and were widely available on the internet (at the time). It was a truly interesting experience. I was also a sportsman and represented Malaysia internationally in fencing and established a fencing masters association hence my interest in sports law. 

You are Secretary of the Malaysian Bar. Tell us more about this.

This is an unpaid and honorary position that one may be elected to if one is elected to the Bar Council and obtains sufficient votes at Council to hold this position.   The Malaysian Bar is the regulator of the legal profession and is established by statute with the primary object of upholding the cause of justice without fear or favour. 

How has legal practice in Malaysia changed in your nearly 30-year legal career? 

I have been in practice for under 27 years. When I commenced practice, it was normal to see telexes, telegrams and snail mail (ordinary post) as the “common” or “ordinary” form of communication. For urgent matters, the telephone and fax were used. It was the talk of the firm when the tax department purchased its own dedicated fax machine.  Most were incredulous that we made a case for it, but this was the heyday of Labuan as an offshore financial centre with numerous funds being established a week and the fax machine singing all day long, pausing only to devour a new consignment of paper or toner.  Email only became widespread approximately 2-3 years after I commenced practice. What a revolution that was and how it shortened turnaround and response times and expectations around the same!  Now clients send a text and wait online for real-time advice and immediate answers with a premium on concise, functional and practical answers.  (This interview itself is typed out on a mobile device while on the go.)

What key tax and anti-trust issues should business be aware of when doing business in Malaysia?

For tax, key issues include complying with transfer pricing laws and rules, adopting and implementing proper tax risk management protocols and recording/minuting all structuring decisions and actions and the underlying commercial rationales (apart from the avoidance of tax, which should not be a consideration at all).  For anti-trust, compliance with the key prohibitions against cartel behaviour, avoiding abusive (meaning exploitative and exclusionary) conduct where an enterprise is dominant and (from now on) a heightened sense of vigilance to look out for corporate transactions which might constitute notifiable combinations, particularly if there is a risk of a substantial lessening of competition in any market. While a merger control regime has not yet been enacted (albeit proposed in no uncertain terms) there are concrete proposals and provisions and draft legislation which are ready and expected to be presented in Parliament soon. 

Posted by Asia Law Portal

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