Desmond Liaw


I specialise in complex commercial and civil litigation, with emphasis on areas such as corporate-related disputes, contractual disputes, financial services-related disputes, employment, fraud, trust and professional negligence. I co-lead MinterEllison’s employment practice group in Hong Kong. My other area of speciality is in insolvency and bankruptcy. With more than two decades of experience, I deliver effective and practical solutions to clients.


Originally from Malaysia and having obtained his education in Australia, I am admitted as a solicitor in Hong Kong, NSW (Australia) and Malaysia.

Apart from my areas of speciality in complex litigation, employment and insolvency, I am also experienced in Securities Futures Commission matters, regularly advising licensed corporations and individuals in investigations by the regulator.  I conduct internal investigations into potential regulatory breaches by clients (typically, companies), as well as previously, investigations involving the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA).  I also represent clients in investigations and prosecutions by the Hong Kong Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) and the Commercial Crimes Bureau (CCB) of the Hong Kong Police.

In various editions of the Legal 500, I was quoted as “thorough but at the same time always keeps an eye on the big picture and overall strategy to advance the client’s case‘; “Desmond Liaw is an excellent lawyer who is very knowledgeable in the area of litigation. He is approachable and is easily accessible and his advice is well analysed and always practical. He is highly recommended” (2020/21 edition)

Other key contacts include Desmond Liaw, who provides ‘practical and commercial advice’ to clients seeking representation across complex litigation, employment and insolvency matters”; “Desmond and his team are definitely Hong Kong Employment experts, not only providing specific case consulting, but also preventive suggestions on how to build the mechanism and make it operate in an improving way.”; “Any topic relating to employment can be supported by the team under the leadership of Desmond, with quick responsiveness.”; “I have been working with Desmond for more than two years and he has supported us in various topics relating to employment. In one case related to employment and criminal law at the same time, Desmond took quick action to support our company and team.  He quickly gets to the key points of a case.” (2021/22 edition)

Desmond Liaw is a disputes expert who brings to the table strategic solutions that are often creative and out of the box.“; ” Desmond Liaw and his team provided an excellent service to our company. Services typically include assistance with routine internal policy revisions and handling of certain emergencies. In both areas, the team provided fast and excellent service.”; “They provide the best solution from the customer’s perspective and fully consider the cost for the customer. Compared with other law firms, they are better able to consider all aspects of details for their clients, rather than just issuing legal opinions. This customer-oriented spirit is fully recognised by us.“; “Desmond Liaw has excellent listening skills, can quickly grasp the key to the problem, and can get to the point to find out the key to solving the problem. Throughout the entire process, he applies his excellent legal knowledge, has a firm grasp of his clients’ needs, and provides very pragmatic solutions with fast results.” (2022/23 edition)

Career Highlights

Dispute Resolution & Regulatory Matters

  • Representing a MNC against its former employee for recovery of significant funds misappropriated from the company, which resulted in a criminal conviction and imprisonment term of 15 years for the employee, the highest ever in Hong Kong history for a theft offence
  • Representing the liquidators of China Lumena New Materials Corp. in a very substantial, multi-billion audit negligence claim against one of the largest international accounting firms
  • Representing a HKSE listed Chinese securities brokerage house in a number of substantial claims against individuals (some, Chairmen of HKSE listed companies) for margin defaults to the tune of several hundred million dollars in each case
  • Representing an insurer in a fraudulent insurance claim proceedings
  • Representing a defendant to an unfair prejudice/winding-up petition instituted by the eldest son of a successful, well-regarded businessman in oil and gas against, among others, his brothers
  • Representing victims of email frauds and related recoveries, including in a complex but potential landmark case against a Money Service Operator in respect of proprietary claim and personal claims(knowing receipt, dishonest assistance and unjust enrichment claims)
  • Advised and represented several family members in a bitterly fought family dispute involving breach of trust
  • Representing an investor in a HK$330 million claim against the Chairman of a HKSE listed company in bankruptcy proceedings and HKIAC arbitration
  • Representing a French investor in an enforcement of a USD30 million French judgment against a well-known French individual with business interests in Hong Kong and Indonesia
  • Represented members of the family of a shipping magnate in the 20th century in a bitter family dispute involving around USD600-800 million
  • Represented Asia Television Limited (ATV – oldest TV station in Asia) on a multi-million dollars breach of contract claim
  • Advised and represented a household brand name against its former director for diversion of business to the tune of several hundreds of million dollars
  • Advised and represented a number of clients on covert raids by various authorities (CCB, ICAC and SFC) and dealing with the authorities on legal professional privilege issues; represented clients in SFC investigations
  • Represented parties to a complex shareholders dispute that concerned the famous KU DE TA bar on the rooftop of the Singapore Marina Bay Sands
  • Represented eSun Holdings Limited and its directors in a breach of fiduciary duties and derivative action brought by Passport Special Opportunities Master Fund, LP in which judgment in favour of eSun and its directors was handed down in June 2011. The decision will have an important bearing on directors’ duties, especially in the context of raising funds for the company
  • Advised a large multi-national health care manufacturer on FCPA issues and conducted internal investigations
  • Represented investors against several major financial institutions on mis-selling cases
  • Represented clients in SFC, ICAC and CCB investigations and prosecutions


  • Advising and representing clients, both employers (often, common household names) and employees, on contentious and non-contentious employment matters ranging from pre-employment to post-employment issues, including working on a number of employment-related projects (e.g. redundancy of employees worldwide, standardising employment contracts, employee handbooks and policies across offices in multiple jurisdictions, etc.), conducting internal investigations and disciplinary proceedings
  • Representing a listed company on a very substantial misappropriation of funds by a former employee matter, which is also cross-border (Macau, China and Australia)
  • Representing employers on discrimination complaints by employees to the Equal Opportunities Commission, and employment claims brought in the Labour Tribunal and Courts
  • Represented Helm Hong Kong Limited, a subsidiary of a large multi-national chemicals and pharmaceutical company with headquarters in Germany, in multiple litigations against the former managing director and a former employee. The complex litigations involve claims for fraud and breaches of fiduciary duties, in addition to breaches of duties as an employee

Insolvency & Restructuring

  • Representing a shareholder in shareholders’ dispute where a winding-up petition on just and equitable ground (based on alleged quasi-partnership) and application for appointment of provisional liquidators have been issued
  • Representing a well-known fund against a HKSE listed company and its Chairman in a note default action, potentially winding-up proceedings
  • Represented liquidators of a failed fund including obtaining local order for recognition of and assistance to foreign liquidators
  • Represented a corporate finance firm against former employees and their associated company, and successfully applied for the appointment of provisional liquidators
  • Advised the liquidator of one of the Lehman Brothers entities on claims involving complex derivatives products
  • Advised ATV on its scheme of arrangement
  • Assisted in Winsway Enterprises Holdings Limited’s restructuring
  • Advised Steering Committee of Stereo Ltd’s scheme of arrangement
  • Advised and represented the Executor of the estate of Lim Por Yen (founder of the Lai Sun Group) and in the liquidation of Highfit Investments Limited
  • Represented the liquidators of the Incorporated Owners of Casio Mansion (in liquidation) throughout the liquidation process, which involved issues connected to the Building Management Ordinance as well
  • Represented the petitioner in the winding-up proceedings against Wing Fai Construction and in the application for appointment of provisional liquidators to the company. The liquidation of Wing Fai Construction subsequently generated a number of court decisions, some of which were landmark decisions