Ex-UOB head's kin sue fund managers over $139m portfolio

Two nephews of the former head of UOB have taken their fund managers to court over investments worth US$110 million (S$139 million). -- FILE PHOTO: BLOOMBERG
Two nephews of the former head of UOB have taken their fund managers to court over investments worth US$110 million (S$139 million). -- FILE PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

TWO nephews of the former head of UOB have taken their fund managers to court over investments worth US$110 million (S$139 million).

Brothers Wee Boo Kuan, 47, and Wee Boo Tee, 45, are asking the High Court to order CS Partners and two other individuals to return them a private equity funds portfolio, and to provide detailed accounts of investments made since 2005.

The men are nephews of former UOB chairman Wee Cho Yaw. Their mother, Madam Cheong Soh Chin, is also party to the case.

Co-defendants Eng Chiet Shoong and his wife Sylvia Lee Siew Yuen, understood to be in their 60s, are counter-claiming some US$17 million in management fees and related expenses plus an indemnity for any expenses incurred in returning the investments.

One issue is whether CS Partners gave regular information and updates to the brothers on their investments. These span 15 private equity funds and direct investment projects.

The brothers' lawyer, Senior Counsel Philip Jeyaretnam, said the pair are high net-worth individuals who were "charmed" by Mr Eng into entrusting him with the "bulk of their family wealth" in a seven-year business relationship dating back to 2005.

Mr Jeyaretnam said in his opening statement yesterday that Mr Eng and Ms Lee had acted in a "disorganised and opaque manner" and were uncooperative when asked to return the investments.

Their fund managers, however, claim all reasonable steps had been taken since the brothers asked them in December 2011 to sell up or return the investments.

Until then, their clients had not complained about how their investments had been managed or the information given to them.

The defendants claim the plaintiffs had even "generally expressed satisfaction" with the information and said the documents being asked for now are "unreasonably wide and unjustified".

In his opening submissions, defence lawyer, Senior Counsel Alvin Yeo, said the three plaintiffs' "real displeasure" - including dissatisfaction with a file of documents given last year to account for the investments - stems from financial problems beginning in 2009. These forced them to sell some investments.

The investment relationship between both sides started in 2005 after Ms Lee introduced the brothers - who were her family friends - to her husband, a former employee of the private equity arm of the Government of Singapore Investment Corp.

Mr Eng introduced the brothers to some private equity funds and they later hired CS Partners to manage their investments after Ms Lee established the firm.

The plaintiffs had invested about US$129 million in private equity funds as of early 2008, according to court documents.

The hearing continues today.

pohian@sph.com.sg