Sunday, January 06, 2013

Threat of defamation suit

About three years ago, I posted in my blog a posting quoting a few paragraphs from the Guardian newspaper of the UK. It referred to the activities of a company in Singapore, which I shall refer to as X, selling land banks at 16 times of the actual cost of land. and pointed out several misrepresentations contained in their marketing material. My posting contained a link to the UK website.

It attracted many angry comments from investors in Singapore who voiced their anger at X for "cheating" them; based on their actual experience prior to reading my posting.

A week later, I received a letter from the lawyer acting from X. The legal firm is one of the big names in Singapore. The lawyer letter, which was marked "Private & Confidential" alleged that certain statements in my postings were "baseless and false" and asked me to show proof to back up my statements.

It was followed with a demand to remove the postings, issue a letter of apology using their wordings, and to spend two full days in the office of X to be "educated" about their value of their operations. YES, TWO FULL DAYS " just like being in jail. If I do not respond within 14 days, they will file a suit in court against me for defamation.

If I fight this matter in court, I estimate that it will cost me $500,000 - with money to be paid to two sets of lawyers, if I lose.

I pointed out that if the allegations were false, could X send the facts for me to post in my blog? This was rejected by the lawyer. I pointed out that the allegations were in the UK website - would they reply there and copy to me. It was rejected by the lawyer. The demand to act within 14 days was repeated.

I acted first to remove the blog. Each time I received an e-mail to demand compliance, I replied immediately. The lawyer took a few days to reply to me. In the course of the exchange, several weeks passed. The director of X became impatient and posted a statement in their corporate website stating "Tan Kin Lian is a liar". It contained the details of the letters that their lawyer had sent to me, but not the terms of their unconscionable demands.

I wrote to the lawyer and asked for their agreement for me to publish the full content of their letters sent to me under "Private & Confidential" cover. I wanted the public at large to know what kind of "bullying" demands were contained in their letter.

The lawyer did not reply for three weeks. I sent them a reminder. No reply. Suddenly, all their demands on me stopped. No further news. No need to publish a letter of apology and to spend two full days at the office in X.

They do not even have the courtesy to tell me that their client's demand have been withdrawn. They do not even reply to my e-mail after sending several "bullying" letters (in e-mail to me). This is how despicable a reputable lawyer can behave.

I decided to drop this matter, as I have more useful matters to attend to. More than two years have since passed, with full silence. Each time I read the name of the lawyer and the firm, I cursed. (God forgive me).

One year after this episode, company X was raided by the Commercial Affairs Department over alleged fraudulent practices.

I want to share this perspective with people who do are not circumspect or sympathetic with people who were being threatened with defamation suit.


Lye Khuen Way said...

Mr Tan, many thanks for sharing this with the public at large.
We can put two and two together.
You are acting too gentlemanly, by not naming that company X publicly.
A wise move just as you did not name
the big law firm in Singapore.

If the guilty parties were to initiate letter of demands, I would not be surprised, as there seem to have been ingrained, all these years a culture of bullying and brinkmanship. ( actually, it could be "blinkmanship" !)

cd-rom said...

Mr Tan, I thank God for a person like you. Thank you.

zhummmeng said...

Justice is expensive and beyond the reach of the man in the streets if they were conned by insurance agents and their companies.
Complain to regulator? You will be kicked here and there until you are tired and give up.
Have money will have justice.
Fair? If you are want fair dealing don't buy insurance from insurance agents. Why? they are NOT FOR YOU but themselves and the company.

ym said...

Hi Mr Tan, Share with you 2 jokes about lawyers :
Q: What's the difference between a good lawyer and a bad lawyer?
A: A bad lawyer makes your case drag on for years. A good lawyer makes it last even longer.

Q: What's the difference between a lawyer and a leech?
A: After you die, a leech stops sucking your blood.

On a more serious note, i think Singapore is quite a backward/3rd world country when it comes to politics, freedom of speech, voicing ones opinion etc. Even in Malaysia, people talk shit about the political figures, corporations, CEOs etc all the time - but only in very few cases has there been action taken on bloggers.

However, the elites, political figures, people with money etc in Singapore think they are high and mighty, and take themselves too seriously. These ppl already have so much in material goods, power, security etc. So why sweat over the small stuff like the opinions of this and that blogger?

So i come to the following conclusion : despite all the riches, luxury apartments, patek watches, botox jabs, assess to top doctors to cure their ailments, deep down, most of the elites of Singapore actually have little. They are very insecure and they lack the class and generosity to act in a way befitting their stature in society.

Abt the lawyers, forget about it - just like how you will forget about the annoying mosquito that preyed on you the nite before.


Unknown said...

After the TT Durai Saga, we, the people know that by acceding to the take down request, apologizing, or even if he were to be sued, and loses in Court, merely means that he cannot proves what he said. But it does not necessarily mean that what he said are wrong.

Unknown said...

Justice is very costly, it is beyond the reach of ordinary people.

Many of us just swallowed our pride and move on.

Unknown said...

I commented once in SCS about a private education institute half in jest n half with a sleepy mind (the post was dished out at two am,,,,). Any reader wud know it may be false but certainly NOT malicious.
A lawyer letter was sent to me demanding retraction, cost and hefty damages. The law firm is probably the top law firm with many of its senior partners now elevated to the bench or AGC...
Though I am in the right, I did not defend my pride as it requires a very deep pocket which I do not have. In the end, I had to cough up two years salary to pay the plaintiff cost for a simple case.
So the company was able to trample upon the ordinary person by using a big name law firm. It paid nothing at all n the friggin law firm ripped off lots of money from me so that their partners can continue to buy couple of bungalows every from the blood money they are taking from innocent pple who have NO means to fight or defend.
What has Singapore turned into? LEEgal gangsters are ready to attack you within laws designed for them n with judiciary on their side. I now understand why Gaddafi, Mubarak went under and how oppressed their citizens felt.

Jp69 said...

A responder to a post here indicates he was advised he would have Singapore legal costs of $500k for taking on a land banking company despite clear evidence.

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