A lawyer with 29 years of experience overcharged a client by charging the firm $1.34 million in professional fees, later valued at $288,000.
Syn Kok Kay, sole proprietor of Patrick Chin Syn & Co, also ignored a court order to file a cost claim within 14 days after asking the court to evaluate the claim filed by his client .
On Tuesday, Syn was suspended for three years and nine months for overbilling and failing to comply with a court order.
“It is clear that the degree of overcharging is appalling,” the court said in a statement written by Justice Stephen Chong.
The court noted that Mr. Syn overcharged client JWR, a medical products company, by more than 4.65 times what he should have claimed, amounting to an overcharge of $1.05 million.
This raises a strong inference of unethical behavior, the court said. The court also included Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon and Justice Tay Yong Kwang.
In his defense, Syn said he truly believed the fees he charged were reasonable.
However, the court overturned this and concluded that he had intentionally and unethically used JWR.
The court noted that Mr. Syn regularly requested JWR to round the charges without itemizing them.
The cost claim he finally filed (more than a year past the stipulated deadline) also failed to disclose a reasonable justification for the claim, the court added.
Not only did My Syn fail to repay JWR, but he also tried to hide his assets from his creditors, including JWR, by transferring the vehicle and club membership to his wife for $1 each.
“His attempt to conceal his assets constituted an extension of his unethical behavior of overcharging JWR, and further implied a complete lack of remorse,” the court said. .
The court also considered Mr. Singh’s seniority and a previous warning letter for failure to comply with a fee cap agreed to by the Bar Association in 2013 as exacerbating factors.
Mr. Singh is currently a non-discharged bankrupt and cannot practice law. The suspension will take effect when he is discharged from bankruptcy.
In 2015, Syn signed with JWR to sue the company’s former lawyers for $8.9 billion. The lawsuit was dismissed by the High Court in May 2019.
For his services, Syn billed JWR a total of $1.36 million. This includes payments of approximately $24,000 in out-of-pocket expenses and $1.34 million in professional fees.
Invoices were submitted to JWR on a regular basis from December 2015 to April 2019 and JWR paid in full.
JWR later applied to the court for an order evaluating the invoices in a process known as taxation.
Mr. Syn was ordered by the court to file a cost claim by November 7, 2019, but did not file the claim until November 18, 2020.
At a tax hearing on February 9, 2021, the cost of the work done was reduced to $288,000 and Mr. Syn was ordered to reimburse the difference of $1.05 million.
On July 30, 2021 JWR filed for a bankruptcy order against him and he was declared bankrupt on September 30, 2021.
JWR also filed a complaint with the Law Society and brought three counts of professional misconduct against Syn.
Mr. Syn pleaded guilty in a disciplinary court and determined that the court had sufficient grounds to sanction him on two counts.
https://www.tnp.sg/news/singapore/senior-lawyer-who-billed-client-134m-suspended-overcharging-flouting-court-order Senior Lawyer Seeks $1.34 Million Suspension for Client for Overbilling, Defying Court Order, Latest Singapore News