Lee Suet Fern

From Wiki.sg
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Lee Suet Fern
Lim Suet Fern.jpg
Born16 May 1958
EducationBachelor of Laws, Masters in Law
Alma materUniversity of Cambridge
OccupationLawyer
Spouse(s)Lee Hsien Yang (m. 1981)
ChildrenLi Shengwu, Li Huanwu, Li Shaowu
Parent(s)Lim Chong Yah (father), See Nah Nah (mother)

Lee Suet Fern (born 16 May 1958) is a decorated and established Singaporean lawyer. She was a partner at Morgan Lewis & Bockius (LLP) and the director of an affiliated corporation, Morgan Lewis Stamford (LLC). A stellar lawyer in the eyes of the international business community, Suet Fern has held board member positions in reputable organisations like the Inter-Pacific Bar Association, Singapore Academy of Law and Rothschild & Co. She was also the first woman to receive the Lifetime Achievement award from Chambers Asia-Pacific. Suet Fern is the wife of Lee Hsien Yang and daughter-in-law to the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew. Since the latter's passing, Suet Fern has been embroiled in the ongoing Lee family dispute surrounding the house on Oxley Road.

Background

Family

(Pictured) Lee Hsien Yang and Suet Fern. Photo from The Straits Times.

Suet Fern is the daughter renowned Economics professor and author Lim Chong Yah. She has one sister, Lim Suet Lynn and two brothers, Lim Suet Wun and Lim Suet Ron.[1] Suet Fern married Lee Hsien Yang in 1981.[2] They had dated while both studying in Cambridge.[3] Together, the couple has three sons - Li Shengwu (b. 1985), Li Huanwu (b. 1986) and Li Shaowu (b. 1995). In June 2019, Suet Fern attended Pink Dot in support of her son, Huanwu and his partner, Heng Yirui.[4] She had also attended Huanwu and Yirui’s wedding in South Africa earlier that year.[5]

Education

Suet Fern pursued her Law degree at Cambridge University where she graduated with double first-class honours in 1980.[6][7] She was then automatically awarded her Masters in Law from Cambridge for her academic excellence. In 1981, Suet Fern became a Barrister-at-Law at the prestigious Gray’s Inn of the Court in London.[8] She was called to the Singapore Bar in 1982.[9]

Quilting

Suet Fern pictured with one of her quilts at the Yokohama quilt festival in 2019. Photo credit to Lee Hsien Yang.

Outside of her legal career, Suet Fern is an accomplished quilter. Her quilts have been selected for a few international quilt festivals.[10] Most recently in 2019, she participated in the Quilt Time Festival in Yokohama, Japan.[11] In a 2014 interview with The Straits Times, Suet Fern shared that she had picked up quilting as a hobby in the 1990s although her interest in knitting started during her years in university.[12]

Career highlights

Awards & accolades

Since being called to the bar, Suet Fern has won numerous awards throughout her professional career as a lawyer.

Year Title Awarding Organisation Refs.
2020 Ranked (Corporate M&A: Domestic) Chambers Global [13]
Highly Regarded IFLR1000 Financial and Corporate
Ranked (Corporate M&A) Chambers Asia-Pacific
2019 Band 1 (Corporate M&A: Domestic) Chambers Global
Ranked (Corporate M&A) Chambers Asia-Pacific
Highly Regarded IFLR1000 Financial and Corporate
Highly Regarded (M&A) IFLR1000
Ranked (Top 100 Lawyers in Singapore) Asia Business Law Journal
2018 Band 1 (Corporate M&A) Chambers Asia-Pacific
Ranked (Top 100 Lawyers in Singapore) Asia Business Law Journal
Highly Regarded (M&A) IFLR1000
Ranked (Top 300 Best Transactional Specialists) IFLR1000 Women Leaders
2017 Band 1 (Corporate M&A) Chambers Asia-Pacific
Leading Lawyer (Capital Markets, Corporate M&A) Asialaw
Highly Regarded (M&A) IFLR1000
Lifetime Achievement Award Euromoney
2016 Band 1 (Corporate M&A) Chambers Asia-Pacific
Leading Lawyer (Capital Markets, Corporate M&A) Asialaw
Highly Regarded (M&A) IFLR1000
Lifetime Achievement Award Chambers Asia-Pacific
2015 Band 1 (Corporate M&A) Chambers Asia-Pacific
Leading Lawyer (Capital Markets, Corporate M&A) Asialaw
Highly Regarded (M&A) IFLR1000
2014 Band 1 (Corporate M&A) Chambers Asia-Pacific
Recognised (M&A, Debt & Equity) Who's Who Legal
Recognized (M&A, Finance & Transactional Law) Euromoney’s Women in Business Law
2013 Asia Women Business Law Awards (Private Equity) Euromoney
Lawyer of the Year Best Lawyers Mergers & Acquisitions
Best of the Best Euromoney’s Expert Guides
2012 Asia Women Business Law Awards (M&A) Euromoney
Lawyer of the Year Best Lawyers Mergers & Acquisitions
2007 Lifetime Achievement Award Asian Legal Business
1982 Prize for Professional Ethics Singapore Bar Examinations [14]
Memorial Prize
1981 International Trade Prize Gray’s Inn, London

Board membership & leadership

Suet Fern has held many leadership positions throughout the years in fields of business, education and the arts.

Organisation Position Held Refs.
Present Positions:
Rothchild & Co. Independent Member [15]
Sanofi Independent Director [16]
World Justice Project (United States) Director
Caldecott Inc (Cayman Islands) Director
Audit Committee of AXA holdings Japan Co Ltd Director and Member
Board of Trustees Nanyang Technological University (NTU) Member [17]
Past Positions:
AXA Holdings Board of Directors [18]
Morgan Lewis Bockius LLP (Singapore) Managing Director [19]
Macquarie International Infrastructure Fund Ltd. Independent Director [20]
Asian Civilisation Museum Board Chairman [21]
Senate of the Singapore Academy of Law Executive Committee [22]
Accounting Advisory Board, National University Singapore (NUS) Business School Member [23]
Advisory Board of Law School, Singapore Management University (SMU) School of Law Member [24]
Inter-Pacific Bar Association President [25]
Audit Committee and Risk Committee, Sembcorp Independent Director [26]

Lee family dispute

The Lee family dispute erupted following the death of Lee Kuan Yew in 2015. It involves Lee Hsien Yang, Lee Wei Ling and Lee Hsien Loong and their disagreements over a demolition clause in Lee Kuan Yew's will. Lee Suet Fern had played a key role in the drafting of Lee Kuan Yew's will. In 2017, Suet Fern and Lee Hsien Yang relocated overseas and moved out of the 38 Oxley Road house.[27]

Oxley House Dispute

The Lee family pictured in the driveway of their family home. Photo courtesy of The Lee Family, Eng Bow Kee.

The Lee siblings are contesting three overarching issues - (i) The future of the former family home at 38 Oxley Road (ii) The circumstances behind preparation and execution of Lee Kuan Yew's will and (iii) Lee Hsien Loong's alleged abuse of power.

On the first issue:[28][29]

Lee Wei Ling and Lee Hsien Yang, joint executors and trustees of the Oxley Estate, want the house to be demolished as per Lee Kuan Yew’s will. The two allege that Lee Hsien Loong and his wife wanted to preserve the house for their own political gain. A committee was set up to deal with the discord.

On the second issue:[30][31][32]

Lee Hsien Loong argued that Lee Kuan Yew may not have known that the final draft of his will included a reinstated clause for the Oxley house to be demolished. The final will also included other last-minute additions. Lee Hsien Loong also said that Suet Fern’s role is unclear during the making of the will. Both Lee Wei Ling and Lee Hsien Yang defended themselves and Lee Suet Fern with “evidence” on Facebook.

On the third issue:[33][34]

Lee Wei Ling and Lee Hsien Yang accused Lee Hsien Loong of abusing his position as Prime Minister to preserve the Oxley house for his personal agenda. They also accused Lee Hsien Loong and his wife for grooming their son, Li Hongyi into politics. Lee Hsien Loong and Li Hongyi have both refuted these allegations.

Disciplinary tribunal (2019)

A present-day image of the Lee family home at 38 Oxley Road. Photo from The Straits Times.

In 2018, the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) wrote to Lee Suet Fern for an explanation regarding her role in preparing the last version of Lee Kuan Yew’s will. There had been no response from her. The following are some questions that Lee Hsien Loong raised in a statutory declaration concerning how Lee Kuan Yew’s will had been made:[35][36]

Why did Lee Suet Fern say, at the reading of the Last Will on 12 April 2015, that she had not wanted to be involved in the preparation of the Last Will and that she had asked Ng Joo Khin, a lawyer from her law firm to handle the matter, when she had been intimately involved in the events surrounding and leading up to the Last Will?
What was Lee Suet Fern’s role in the preparation and signing of the Last Will?
Whether and to what extent were the earlier wills discussed with Mr Lee Kuan Yew in the lead-up to the signing of the Last Will and when the Last Will was signed, and who had those discussions?
What transpired during the brief time that Bernard Lui and Elizabeth Kong, lawyers from Stamford Law Corporation, were with Mr Lee? Did Lee Suet Fern tell the two lawyers to ensure that Mr Lee received independent legal advice before asking him to sign the Last Will?

In 2019, the AGC lodged a complaint to Law Society Singapore and Deputy Attorney-General Lionel Yee regarding “a possible case of professional misconduct"[37] by Suet Fern while preparing and executing Lee Kuan Yew’s will. Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon set up a two-man tribunal to investigate the matter.[38]

Tribunal findings (2020)

An artist's impression of the Oxley Road House. Photo from Facebook.

On 18 February 2020, the tribunal concluded that Lee Suet Fern was guilty of professional misconduct in the handling and execution of Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s will. The tribunal found that Lee Suet Fern and Lee Hsien Yang had misled Lee Kuan Yew into signing the last version of the will within 16 hours of notifying him of the changes on 16 December 2013. The signing was made in the absence of Lee Kuan Yew’s lawyer, Kwa Kim Li. Kwa Kim Li had then been left out of the email thread and drafting process, rendering Suet Fern the only lawyer responsible for the last will.[39]


The tribunal also found that the legal advice given to Lee Kuan Yew regarding the changes was brief. They also noted that Suet Fern had failed to mention the reinserted demolition clause.[40] It was mentioned that Suet Fern had “abused her position to further Lee Hsien Yang’s wishes that the last will be executed hurriedly”.[41] Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon described Suet Fern as a “deceitful witness”. Her husband was also described as “equally deceitful”.[42] The tribunal report showed that the couple lied to the public and suppressed their role in the making of the will. In 2013, Lee Hsien Yang claimed that Kwa Kim Li was lying to the public when she said she did not draft the final will. He also denied his wife's involvement.[43]


The tribunal also used phrases such as “improbable”, “patently contrived”, “downright dishonest” to describe the couple’s behaviour. Lee Suet Fern’s case will be referred to the Court of Three Judges where she could be disbarred, suspended, penalised of S$1,000, or a mixture of these punishments.[44] On 23 February 2020, Suet Fern rejected the tribunal’s report stating that:

"... (she) will fight this strongly … in open court”.[45]

References / Citations

  1. Tan, Martino. “A distinguished economist, who knows all three PMs, had launched an autobiography that revealed much about politics and academia in S’pore". Mothership SG. January 30, 2017. Accessed on 24 February 2020.
  2. "Another lawyer for the Lee family [ARTICLE + ILLUSTRATION]". New Nation. July 19, 1981. Accessed on 27 February 2020. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
  3. Natasha Ann Zachariah. "A little old lady who quilts". The Straits Times. November 17, 2014. Accessed on 27 February 2020. Retrieved from AsiaOne.
  4. Yow, Daphne. "Lee Hsien Yang Attends Pink Dot To Support Newlywed Son & Prove Love Wins". MustShare News. June 29, 2019. Accessed on 27 February 2020.
  5. Stolarchuk, Jewel. “Lee Hsien Yang, Lee Suet Fern and Li Shengwu were in attendance at Li Huanwu’s wedding”. The independent Sg. May 28, 2019. Accessed on 24 February 2020.
  6. "Chong Yah's daughter called to Bar". The Straits Times. August 12, 1982. Accessed on 27 February 2020. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
  7. Goh Lee Kuan. "Susan scores a double first in law at Cambridge". The Straits Times. June 22, 1981. Accessed on 27 February 2020. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
  8. Mrs Lee Suet Fern”. National Technological University. Accessed on 24 February 2020.
  9. "Chong Yah's daughter called to Bar". The Straits Times. August 12, 1982. Accessed on 27 February 2020. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
  10. Natasha Ann Zachariah. "A little old lady who quilts". The Straits Times. November 17, 2014. Accessed on 27 February 2020. Retrieved from AsiaOne.
  11. Lee Hsien Yang. Facebook. June 1, 2019. Accessed on 27 February 2020. Retrieved from: https://www.facebook.com/LeeHsienYangSGP/photos/a.1898738403699593/2352771194962976/?type=3&theater
  12. Natasha Ann Zachariah. "A little old lady who quilts". The Straits Times. November 17, 2014. Accessed on 27 February 2020. Retrieved from AsiaOne.
  13. AWARDS AND AFFILIATIONS”. morganlewis. Accessed on 25 February 2020.
  14. Mrs Lee Suet Fern”. National Technological University. Accessed on 24 February 2020.
  15. Suet-Fern Lee Independent member”. rothschild and co. Accessed on 26 February 2020.
  16. Suet-Fern Lee”. Sanofi. Accessed on 26 February 2020.
  17. ANNOUNCEMENT OF CESSATION AS INDEPENDENT DIRECTOR WHO IS AN AUDIT COMMITTEE MEMBER”. Sembcorp. April 21, 2011. Accessed on 26 February 2020.
  18. Resolutions submitted to AXA’s Shareholders’ Meeting of April 25, 2018”. AXA. February 23, 2018. Accessed on 26 February 2020.
  19. Leong, Grace. “Lee Suet Fern steps down as Singapore managing partner of law firm but continues to play key role in its global strategy”. The Straits Times. June 16, 2017. Accessed on 26 February 2020.
  20. MACQUARIE INTERNATIONAL INFRASTRUCTURE FUND LIMITED”. Finanznachrichten. September 6, 2013.  Accessed on 26 February 2020.
  21. From Boston to Singapore - A New Director for the Asian Civilisations Museum”. Artdaily. May 21, 2010. Accessed on 26 February 2020.
  22. Suet-Fern Lee”. Sanofi. Accessed on 26 February 2020.
  23. ANNOUNCEMENT OF CESSATION AS INDEPENDENT DIRECTOR WHO IS AN AUDIT COMMITTEE MEMBER”. Sembcorp. April 21, 2011. Accessed on 26 February 2020.
  24. ANNOUNCEMENT OF CESSATION AS INDEPENDENT DIRECTOR WHO IS AN AUDIT COMMITTEE MEMBER”. Sembcorp. April 21, 2011. Accessed on 26 February 2020.
  25. Past Presidents”. ipba. Accessed on 26 February 2020.
  26. ANNOUNCEMENT OF CESSATION AS INDEPENDENT DIRECTOR WHO IS AN AUDIT COMMITTEE MEMBER”. Sembcorp. April 21, 2011. Accessed on 26 February 2020.
  27. Lee Suet Fern says she and husband Lee Hsien Yang are 'preparing to leave Singapore'”. The Straits Times. June 14, 2017. Accessed on 24 February 2020.
  28. Ministerial committee on 38 Oxley Road lays out options for house of Lee Kuan Yew”. Channel News Asia. April 2, 2018. Accessed on 24 February 2020.
  29. Sim, Royston. “Oxley Road dispute: Two parts to demolition clause in Lee Kuan Yew's will, says Indranee”. The Straits Times. June 24, 2020. Accessed on 24 February 2020.
  30. Wife's firm didn't draft LKY's last will: Lee Hsien Yang”. The New Paper. June 17, 2017. Accessed on 25 February 2020.
  31. Lee Hsien Yang's wife will face disciplinary tribunal: AGC”. Yahoo. January 8, 2019.  Accessed on 24 February 2020.
  32. How founding PM Lee Kuan Yew's last will was executed in 16 hours”. The Straits Times. February 23, 2020. Accessed on 24 February 2020.
  33. Highlights: PM Lee addresses abuse of power allegations, MPs question platform to clear issue”. Channel News Asia. July 3, 2017. Accessed on 24 February 2020.
  34. Yuen-C, THam. “PM Lee Hsien Loong's son Li Hongyi says he is not interested in politics”. The Straits Times. June 15, 2017. Accessed on 24 February 2020.
  35. Transcript: Summary of PM Lee's statutory declaration on Lee Kuan Yew's Oxley Road home”. Channel News Asia. June 15, 2017. Accessed on 25 February 2020.
  36. Seow, Joanna. “38 Oxley Road dispute: A look at the key issues”. The Straits Times. June 18, 2017. Accessed on 25 February 2020.
  37. Dispute over 38 Oxley Road: A timeline of events”. Channel News Asia. June 24, 2017. Accessed on 25 February 2020.
  38. Lee Hsien Yang's wife will face disciplinary tribunal: AGC”. Yahoo. January 8, 2019.  Accessed on 24 February 2020.
  39. Tham, Yuen-C. “Lee Suet Fern misled founding PM Lee Kuan Yew into signing will: Disciplinary Tribunal”. The Straits Times. February 23, 2020. Accessed on 25 February 2020.
  40. Zakir Hussien. “Disciplinary Tribunal's report on conduct of lawyer Lee Suet Fern addresses some troubling issues”. The Straits Times. February 23, 2020. Accessed on 25 February 2020.
  41. Tham, Yuen-C. “Lee Suet Fern misled founding PM Lee Kuan Yew into signing will: Disciplinary Tribunal”. The Straits Times. February 23, 2020. Accessed on 25 February 2020.
  42. Lee Suet Fern found guilty of misconduct in handling founding PM Lee Kuan Yew's last will”. The Straits Times. February 23, 2020. Accessed on 25 February 2020.
  43. Tham, Yuen-C. “Lee Suet Fern misled founding PM Lee Kuan Yew into signing will: Disciplinary Tribunal”. The Straits Times. February 23, 2020. Accessed on 25 February 2020.
  44. Lee Suet Fern found guilty of misconduct over handling of Lee Kuan Yew’s final will | Video”. Channel News Asia. February 23, 2020. Accessed on 25 February 2020.
  45. Lee Hsien Yang. Facebook. February 23, 2020. Accessed on 24 February 2020. Retrieved from: https://www.facebook.com/LeeHsienYangSGP/posts/2566594896913937