Zaid Ibrahim allowed to inspect documents in dispute over law firm founded by him

Zaid Ibrahim allowed to inspect documents in dispute over law firm founded by him
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KUALA LUMPUR (May 10): The High Court today allowed a discovery application by former de-facto law minister Datuk Mohd Zaid Ibrahim against his old law firm and two former partners.

Justice Datuk Akhtar Tahir delivered his decision this morning via a Zoom hearing and said the documents sought by Zaid are relevant and Zaid had met all the principles of the law to obtain those documents.

The law firm — named after Zaid — Zaid Ibrahim & Co (ZICO) was represented by Tan Sri Tommy Thomas, who appeared for the firm’s executive chairman Datuk Seri Nik Norzrul Thani Nik Hassan Thani, its former managing partner Chew Seng Kok and the firm, while Datuk Malik Imtiaz Sarwar appeared for Zaid.

The judge ordered the law firm to hand over all relevant documents to Zaid within seven days from today and awarded RM3,000 in cost to Zaid.

Thomas had then sought a stay order against the discovery application; however, Justice Akhtar asked for a formal application to be made, Thomas then sought an interim stay pending the filing of the formal application.

Justice Akthar granted the interim stay with the condition that a formal application is filed by next Wednesday (May 19). If Thomas and his clients do not file it by that date, the interim stay will lapse.

ZICO, in a statement on today's decision, said it will file an appeal against this decision before the June 19 deadline. It also assured that its business as usual for the law firm, and that the courts decision has no bearing on their practice. 

“It is business as usual and the firm looks forward to continuing to be a leading Malaysian law firm with market defining insights while maintaining our corporate reputation for trust and the highest standards of professionalism for our clients,” 

Zaid, 69, filed the discovery application last December. He is seeking documents from the law firm concerning payments to him after he relinquished his 57% equity share in the law firm in 2008 for RM25.65 million.

The amount was to be paid via 20 annual instalments of RM1.2 million with a final payment of RM1.65 million.

He further claimed that in 2014, the annual payment stopped, with his 5% stake in the former law firm changed to a purported 10% stake in Zico Holdings based in Singapore then.

Zaid claimed the three defendants would have all the necessary documents from the law firm and Zico Holdings, and that the discovery of the documents is relevant to his suit.

Nik Norzrul and Chew, in opposing the discovery application, claimed that the agreement drawn up in 2014 was not executed and is not legally binding.

Zaid filed the suit against his former law firm in November seeking an injunction against the defendants, barring it from using his name "Zaid Ibrahim" in any form or style by the firm, and an order of delivery of materials such as letterheads, brochures, notepaper, invoices and other items used by the defendant in print that forms his name.

Zaid is further seeking an assessment of damages for the wrongful use of his name and costs of the action and other relief deemed fit by the court. He further claimed that the law firm in continuously using his name is legally wrong and that he is entitled to the tort of “passing off” for allegedly an unregistered trademark.

Kathy Fong