KOH Swee Yen is a Partner in the Commercial & Corporate Disputes and International Arbitration Practices.

She has an active practice as counsel, with a particular focus on complex, high-value and cross-border disputes across a wide spectrum of matters from commercial, energy, international sales, trade to investment. She regularly appears before the High Court and Court of Appeal and in international arbitrations under the major institutional rules, including ICSID, ICC, ICDR, LCIA, SIAC and UNCITRAL.

Swee Yen graduated with First Class Honours from the National University of Singapore (NUS). She was awarded the Singapore Academy of Law prize for being the top student in her final year, and won subject prizes for Evidence and Procedure and Intellectual Property Law. Swee Yen served as a Justices' Law Clerk to the Chief Justice of Singapore before entering private practice. She also received appointments as Law Clerk to assist the Competition Appeal Board in the first and subsequent appeals lodged against the Competition Commission of Singapore’s Infringement Decisions relating to price fixing matters. She was commended for her “clear and crisp thoughts on the issue assigned to her” as amicus curiae in Huang Danmin v Traditional Chinese Medicine Practitioners Board [2010] SGHC 152.

Swee Yen is the Vice-Chair of the IBA Arbitration Committee. She is also the Vice-Chair of the IPBA Dispute Resolution and Arbitration Committee, and a member of the Editorial Board of the ICC Dispute Resolution Bulletin and the ICCA-ASIL Task Force on Damages. She has also served as co-chair of the YSIAC Committee and IBA Arb40, and is on the Panel of Arbitrators of the Asian International Arbitration Centre, Hong Kong International Arbitration Centre and Korean Commercial Arbitration Board. She is a council member of International Law Association – Singapore Branch. Swee Yen has also been appointed to the Executive Committee of the Foundation for International Arbitration Advocacy.

She has been a member of the Rules of Court Working Party since 2005, and was also appointed as a member of the Civil Justice Commission with the mandate to effect transformative changes to the litigation process in Singapore. She is appointed by the Ministry of Home Affairs as a member of the Public Entertainment Appeal Board, and is also a member of the Casino Regulatory Authority’s Patron Dispute Committee.

Matters of significance in which Swee Yen has been involved in include the following:

  • Acting for a State against a multinational automobile manufacturer in challenging a jurisdictional award in an investment treaty arbitration concerning claims in connection with certain tax incentives allegedly promised by the State, which is being heard before the Singapore International Commercial Court.
  • Acting for the Independent State of Papua New Guinea in successfully defeating an ICSID claim brought against the State for expropriation of mining assets, and acting for the State in ongoing court proceedings concerning the management of US$1.5 billion of assets.
  • Acted for foreign investors against Laos PDR in investment treaty claims arising from the misappropriation of gaming investments, including securing a ground-breaking victory on the applicability of PRC bilateral investment treaties to Macau SAR based on state succession principles.
  • Acted against the Kingdom of Lesotho in an investment treaty arbitration for expropriation of diamond mining leases and in an application to set aside an investment treaty award finding the State liable for denial of justice in relation to its role in the shuttering of the Southern African Development Community Tribunal.
  • Acting as counsel in energy disputes, including for an affiliate of a leading Nigerian oil and gas conglomerate against a PRC state-owned oil entity for breach of an international sales contract for crude oil valued at over US$60 million; for PRC investors in a dispute concerning a US$80 million petroleum exploration and production project in Georgia; for shareholders of an oil trading company against the international arm of Yukos Oil in a US$55 million fraud and asset-tracing multi-jurisdictional claim.
  • Acting as counsel in various commercial and corporate disputes, including for the founder of Mustafa Centre, an iconic retail and tourist landmark in Singapore, in multiple purported minority oppression suits; for one of the founders of TWG Tea, a luxury tea brand, in various disputes relating to the founding, development and management of TWG Tea; for individual shareholders in representative action and related proceedings in relation to the distribution and management of the proceeds of sale of a hotel in excess of S$100 million; for a family office in proceedings concerning investments in private equity funds and other assets valued at over US$127 million.

Related Practices

  • Commercial & Corporate Disputes
  • International Arbitration

Swee Yen is highly recommended for her expertise in resolving complex international disputes, and is named in various legal publications, including The Legal 500, Chambers Asia-Pacific, Chambers Global and Benchmark Litigation Asia-Pacific.

Most recently, she has been listed as one of the world’s leading arbitration practitioners in Who’s Who Legal: Arbitration 2020 and as a recognised expert in Commercial Arbitration in Experts Guides 2019: The World’s Finest Lawyers Chosen By Their Peers.

Described as being "in a league of her own", "extremely talented", "incredibly hard-working and persistent" with a "very deep understanding of the law" and “razor-sharp” in her advocacy by Chambers Global, sources also praise her for a "keen sense of strategy" and "great ability to quickly grasp her clients' perspective and understand their commercial issues".

The Legal 500 says that Swee Yen is the "go-to disputes lawyer in Singapore", with an "ability to zone right in on the issues with precision and confidence", and is "brilliant, decisive and fearless."

Clients applaud Swee Yen as someone who "always brings her A-game to everything she does and someone you want in your corner in a life or death situation”.