Ian De Witt
Ian is a partner and head of our highly awarded Restructuring and Insolvency practice. He has been recognised as a leading lawyer in major legal publications including Chambers Asia Pacific, Legal 500 Asia Pacific and Who’s Who Legal for more than a decade. An experienced litigator, Ian advises officeholders, shareholders, large multinationals, high net worth individuals and listed companies on insolvency, restructuring and litigation matters. He was recently selected by Asian Legal Business as one of the Top 50 Disputes Lawyers in the Asia-Pacific region.
Ian and his team have been involved in most of the major restructurings and insolvencies in the region over the past two decades, acting for liquidators, receivers, creditors, bondholders, financial institutions and directors across a wide range of sectors. His experience finding solutions for clients puts him at the forefront of the restructuring and insolvency legal market in Hong Kong. He is seen as a go-to advisor for companies and individuals in distress and works with a wide and established network of professionals in Hong Kong and abroad including in offshore jurisdictions.
Additionally, Ian advises on a wide range of commercial and contractual disputes, partnership and shareholder disputes, high value fraud matters involving debt recovery, asset tracing and the enforcement of judgments, pre-emptive actions such as injunctions, court appointed receivers, and the appointment of provisional liquidators.
Over the years, Ian has acted in respect of investigations, regulatory matters and prosecutions carried out by the Police, the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC), the Commercial Crime Bureau (CCB), the Securities and Futures Commission (SFC) and various disciplinary committees.
Ian has been a member of the International Insolvency Institute for several years and sits on the Insolvency Committee for the Law Society, the Technical and Editorial Committee of the Restructuring and Insolvency Faculty of Hong Kong Institute of Certified Public Accountants, the Official Receiver’s Office Services Advisory Committee, and was recently reappointed to his role as director of the Company and Insolvency Law Society (COINS). Ian is a member of the Working Party on Taxation in Civil Proceedings of The Law Society of Hong Kong and is also an accredited mediator of HKMAAL.
Ian De Witt was born in Wales and obtained an honours degree in law in London. After qualifying as a solicitor in England and Wales, he joined and became a partner in a prominent London law firm where he worked for many years before coming to Hong Kong in 1996. Ian founded Tanner De Witt in 1999 with Richard Tanner with just one member of staff.
- Advising in respect of various well known and publicised cases, from the collapse of iconic guitar brand Gibson to trademarks related to the iconic Mini Moke car, based on the Mini and originally produced by the British Motor Corporation in the 60s, to acting for the liquidators of STX Pan Ocean (Hong Kong) Co., Limited, a company owned by Korea’s largest drybulk carrier Pan Ocean Korea.
- Acting in a number of benchmark cases, from the first recognition in Hong Kong of a bankruptcy in Japan to Field v. Barber Asia (the leading Hong Kong case involving negligence against an independent financial advisor.
- Advising one of the largest seafood conglomerates in the world, China Fishery Group, on its highly publicised and hotly contested allegations of fraud in the sum of USD5.5 billion.
- Acting for one of the major shareholders of a Hong Kong company in a group (that includes HK-listed companies) that is currently the subject of several complex and cross-border shareholders’ disputes.
- Acting for independent accounting firm simultaneously as the security agent for bondholders and as the receivers and managers of the security of two Hong Kong Companies.
- Instructed by multiple financial organisations to advise on and give expert evidence in foreign proceedings relating to a dispute and on whether Hong Kong is the most appropriate forum for dispute resolution.
- Acting in the opposition of a winding-up petition and in seeking an Order for the presentation to creditors of an opposed scheme of arrangement under the Companies Ordinance, in a billion dollar debt restructuring in Hong Kong, forming part of one of the largest ever debt restructurings in Asia.
- Acting in a variety of regulatory and professional disciplinary matters, including SFC and CIB.
- Acting for the liquidators of many high profile administrations, notably Oasis Airlines.
- Acting as an expert on Hong Kong liquidation procedure in US proceedings (including deposition).
Over the last few years, Ian has given many talks and presentations, in Hong Kong and Asia, on the topics of insolvency and commercial litigation. Recently Ian has presented at organisations such as:
- American Bankruptcy Institute’s Annual International Insolvency Forum
- INSOL International
- International Association of Young Lawyers’ (AIJA) Half-Year Conference
- Young International Mediation Competition
- Thought Leaders FIRE
- Arms Race: How Effective are Other Practical Weapons in Combatting Fraud
- Bankruptcy, Individual Voluntary Arrangements and Corporate Rescue
- Cross-border insolvencies involving Asia, the US and relevant offshore jurisdictions: A practical look at EMAS and China Fishery
- Current Insolvency Issues in Hong Kong
- Debt Recovery: How To Do It And Make It Pay
- Dispute Resolution in China: to litigate or arbitrate?
- Effects of COVID-19 on restructurings in Hong Kong
- Enforcement and Recognition — Asian perspectives
- IVA Practical Application in Hong Kong
- Litigation in EU vs Litigating in Asia – What should I be aware of?
- Provisional Liquidation: The Procedure, The Practice, And Its Link With Corporate Rescue In Hong Kong Winding Up Procedures
- The Intersection of Trans-Pacific Trade and International Insolvency Regimes
- Winding Up Procedures
Chambers and Partners 2023 quotes clients of Ian saying,”He is commercial, approachable and a fountain of knowledge in Hong Kong law and procedure.” Further, “Ian is an excellent problem solver.”
Legal 500 2023 notes, “Deep bench of talented and commercial lawyers led by Ian De Witt and Robin Darton. The firm offers seamless service with pragmatic and strategic advice.” And, “Ian de Witt and Robin Darton provide a very desirable mix of prior international law firm experience and working in a local team that has operated successfully in Hong Kong for many years, combining local knowledge with cross-border expertise.”
Who’s Who Legal recognises Ian as a Thought Leader in Asset Recovery (GIR) 2022 and remarks: ‘Ian De Witt is a star of the Hong Kong market. He is well versed in advising multi-nationals, shareholders and high-net worth individuals on a range of asset recovery, restructuring and insolvency issues.’ Additionally, “Ian De Witt is a prominent name in the asset recovery space, routinely representing key corporates in “heavyweight asset recovery work.” And, “Ian De Witt earns recognition from market commentators as a deeply experienced practitioner who regularly acts for liquidators, receivers, creditors and financial institutions.”
Selected by Asian Legal Business as being in the Top 50 Disputes lawyers in the Asia-Pacific region.
Chambers Asia Pacific 2021 notes: Ian De Witt is widely respected as a market leader with “a really good reputation” for complex insolvency matters. His deep expertise spans both the advisory and contentious aspects of restructuring and insolvency-related work. Ian is listed as a Band 1 Leading Individual.
Asia Pacific Legal 500 2021 notes: Ian is one of the ‘top practitioners in insolvency and restructuring’, ‘user-friendly and cost-conscious’ and ‘easy to work with and very strategic.’ Ian is listed in the Hall of Fame of Restructuring and Insolvency lawyers in Hong Kong.
Asia Pacific Legal 500 2020 notes: ‘Two of the most prominent insolvency/restructuring lawyers in Hong Kong’, co-heads Ian De Witt and Robin Darton have ‘great all-round experience’. It notes that they form ‘One of the top insolvency teams in the market’…highly in demand as a result of its ‘specialised experience combined with practical advice’.
Chambers Asia Pacific 2020 notes: Ian De Witt is described as “one of the bible writers for insolvency law” by one source who adds: ‘He’s a walking dictionary on legal matters relating to insolvency.’ He often advises on contentious matters and counts distressed companies, liquidators and bond trustees among his clients. A market commentator notes: “He’s a safe pair of hands, he’s someone who really thinks of the problems that the cases give rise to and he’s got an almost encyclopaedic understanding of insolvency law.”
Ian won the IFLR Client Choice Award 2020.
Who’s Who Legal recognises Ian as a Thought Leader in GIR 2019, Litigation 2020 & Restructuring & Insolvency 2020 and as a Global Leader in its Asset Recovery, Litigation 2019 & Restructuring & Insolvency 2020 & 2022 rankings.
Asia Pacific Legal 500 2019 notes: The ‘excellent‘ Ian De Witt has been advising ENRE Holdings as a major creditor on the restructuring of Petrocom; notably De Witt recently successfully stayed the winding-up order against Petrocom, enabling the company to recommence its trading operations.
Chambers Asia Pacific 2019 notes: Ian De Witt is a veteran at handling a range of insolvency matters, from debt recovery to pre-emptive actions and the appointment of provisional liquidators. One client enthuses: “Ian’s approach is very personal and reassuring. He has a very casual manner about him which really helps, as these situations are very stressful, taking away a lot of the pain of the process in what was not a very savoury situation.”
Ian has been recognised by Who’s Who Legal 2018 as a leader in his field for Asset Recovery and Restructuring & Insolvency and comes “highly recommended” for “his excellence in asset recovery and tracing matters”.
Ian is listed as a Market-leading Lawyer for Dispute Resolution & Litigation and Restructuring & Insolvency by the 2018 Edition of Asialaw Leading Lawyers.
Asia Pacific Legal 500 2018 notes: An ‘established player in the Hong Kong market’, Tanner De Witt is particularly recommended at the contentious end of the market; the ‘excellent’ Ian De Witt is recommended.
Chambers Asia Pacific 2018 notes: Ian De Witt has close to 30 years of experience in the insolvency practice area in London and Hong Kong. One client says: “Ian De Witt, in my opinion, is the best insolvency lawyer in Hong Kong.”
Chambers Asia Pacific 2017 notes: Ian has 30 years of experience acting for creditors, receivers and liquidators on major, complex insolvencies and restructurings. One client remarks: “He gets into the nitty-gritty, but also sees the big picture.” He advised Asian Bamboo on the replacement of directors of its subsidiaries with a preliminary insolvency administrator.
Asia Pacific Legal 500 2017 notes: ‘An expert in the field of insolvency-related matters’, Tanner De Witt has a well-established practice and enjoys strong relationships with key insolvency practitioners. ‘All-round expert’ Ian De Witt is noted for his ‘practical advice’; he recently assisted a well-known Hong Kong-based company with the winding up of several entities.
Ian is listed in the Legal Media Group Guide to the World’s Leading Insolvency and Restructuring Lawyers.
Ian is consistently ranked as a ‘Leading Lawyer’ for restructuring and insolvency in Hong Kong by various industry publications including Chambers Asia and Asia Pacific Legal 500. Ian is a Leading Lawyer for Restructuring and Insolvency in the 2018 Edition of Asialaw Leading Lawyers and the 2018 Edition of IFLR1000.
Chambers Asia Pacific 2016 notes: “Ian De Witt… ‘very quickly gets the issues, speaks with authority and gives advice with confidence.’ He is held in high esteem by peers who frequently mention him as a leading expert on insolvency matters.”
Asia Pacific Legal 500 2016 notes: “The lawyers ‘go out of their way to maintain ongoing close relationships with clients’ and are ‘extremely good at what they do’. Ian De Witt and Robin Darton are both ‘very competent, practical and commercial’”.
IFLR1000 2016 notes: ‘As an insolvency practitioner, I primarily use Tanner De Witt for advice in the area of insolvency and related litigation,’ one client says. ‘It has a number of partners, namely Ian De Witt, Robin Darton and Anthony Hill, who are very capable and experienced in this area. I would have no hesitation in recommending their services’.
- American Bankruptcy Institute (ABI)
- British Chamber of Commerce
- Commonwealth Lawyers Association (CLA)
- Fellow of the Hong Kong Credit and Collection Management Association (HKCCMA)
- Hong Kong International Arbitration Center
- Hong Kong Institute of Certified Public Accountants (HKICPA) Restructuring and Insolvency Faculty Technical Sub-Committee
- Insolvency Law Committee of The Law Society of Hong Kong
- Institute of Financial Planners of Hong Kong
- International Association of Restructuring, Insolvency & Bankruptcy Professionals (INSOL International)
- International Bar Association (IBA)
- International Insolvency Institute (III)
- International Women’s Insolvency & Restructuring Confederation (IWIRC)
- Law Society Insolvency Committee
- Mediator accredited by the Hong Kong International Arbitration Centre (HKIAC)
- The Law Society of Hong Kong
- ThoughtLeaders 4 Fraud, Insolvency, Recovery, Enforcement (FIRE)
- Turnaround Management Association (TMA)
- Company and Insolvency Law Society (COINS)
- Working Party on Taxation in Civil Proceedings of The Law Society of Hong Kong
- Classic Car Club of Hong Kong
- Gold Coast Yacht and Country Club
- Hong Kong Club
- Hong Kong member of: St David’s Society; The Royal Society of St George; St Patrick’s Society; and St Andrew’s Society
- Land Rovers Owner Club
- MG Owners’ Club
- Oriental Club London
- Royal Commonwealth Society
- Royal Geographical Society