Lawyers 'should act as whistle-blowers'

Lawyers 'should act as whistle-blowers'
Attorney-General Steven Chong

SINGAPORE - There is a growing consensus that lawyers should be gatekeepers who blow the whistle on dubious corporate practices, said Attorney-General Steven Chong on Monday.

Speaking at the three-day 26th LawAsia Conference at Suntec convention centre, he called for a "serious consideration" of the idea, explaining that courts and regulators, across various jurisdictions, are expecting more from lawyers now. Clients may also be demanding more of their lawyers, he added.

"As the global community continues to explore ways to avert future financial calamities, it would be remiss of us if we did not at least accord this question the full attention it deserves," Mr Chong told guests and delegates from more than 25 countries.

He said that "the ground has already begun to shift".

The United States, for instance, passed the Sarbanes-Oxley Act in 2002 which requires lawyers to report "evidence of a material violation of securities law or breach of fiduciary duty".

Meanwhile, expectations have seemingly risen in Britain for market players such as hedge-fund bosses, and in Australia, for in-house counsel, said Mr Chong.

In Singapore, professional advisers must be "diligent" in processing information from their clients and "proactive" in making further inquiries, added Mr Chong.

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