Nathaniel Lai

Commercial dispute resolution
International arbitration
Company and insolvency
Civil fraud and asset recovery
Trusts and equity
White-collar crime and regulatory investigations

Professional Practice

Nathaniel is developing a broad litigation and arbitration practice and accepts instructions in all areas of Chambers’ work.  He has acted for clients in civil disputes and international arbitrations across a wide variety of subject matter and industries, including M&A, private equity and joint venture, civil fraud, sale of goods, life sciences and clinical research, technology and licensing, and corporate dissolution.  Nathaniel also has broad experience in white-collar criminal litigation and regulatory investigations, having represented companies and individuals in matters involving regulators in Asia and globally.

Prior to joining Chambers, Nathaniel practiced in the Hong Kong and Singapore offices of leading international law firms, with a focus on complex commercial litigation, international arbitration and white-collar criminal disputes with an Asian nexus (in particular China and Korea).  Nathaniel has extensive experience in these markets and continues to act for clients in disputes relating to these jurisdictions.

Nathaniel is qualified in Singapore and New York, and is fluent in English and Mandarin Chinese.


  • Acting in an SIAC arbitration and parallel Singapore High Court litigation for a distressed assets fund based in Hong Kong and Singapore in a USD 50 million dispute over the exit of a joint venture investment.  The disputes are governed by Singapore law and involve allegations of breach of contract, conspiracy and fraud.  Led by Jern-Fei Ng KC.
  • Acting in an LCIA arbitration seated in London against a global investment bank in relation to a US$ 1.4 billion dispute over the construction and performance of the bank’s obligations under an agreement governed by English law.  Led by Vernon Flynn KC, Toby Landau KC and Jern-Fei Ng KC.
  • Acting for claimants in relation to a US$ 2 billion litigation arising from alleged facilitation of international fraud and money laundering by the defendants.  Led by Vernon Flynn KC and Jern-Fei Ng KC.
  • Acting in an SGD 14 million dispute in the Singapore High Court (General Division) against borrowers under a loan agreement tied to the acquiring of an equity investment by the borrowers.  Singapore law governs.
  • Acting for a Korean conglomerate in an SIAC arbitration seated in Singapore over the proper construction of a commodities trading profit-sharing agreement.  Singapore law governs.  Led by Jern-Fei Ng KC.
  • Acting in setting aside proceedings before the Singapore International Commercial Court brought by an Indian state-owned railway construction company against a construction contractor consortium.  Singapore law governs.  Led by Chan Leng Sun SC with Tham Lijing.
  • Advising a Malaysian deep-water oil production project company on proceedings to set aside an arbitration award relating to construction of the project.  The award is one of the largest awards ever rendered in Malaysia and worth over US$ 422 million.  Led by Jern-Fei Ng KC.
  • Acted for one of the largest real estate developers in China in a high-stakes HKIAC arbitration seated in Hong Kong concerning alleged breaches of an investment agreement, including successfully defending an emergency arbitration seeking Mareva injunctions freezing over US$ 4.5 billion in assets.
  • Acted for a global biotech company in a US$ 340 million New York-seated ICC arbitration governed by New York law against its U.S. clinical research partner.  The dispute centered around alleged breaches of two license and collaboration agreements for joint clinical research and development of new immunotherapy treatments for cancer.
  • Acted for an Asian private equity fund in a HK$ 2.9 billion HKIAC arbitration governed by Hong Kong law against a major Chinese company in relation to alleged breaches of an agreement for the issuance of shares.
  • Acted for a Chinese mining and real estate conglomerate in an HKIAC arbitration governed by Hong Kong law in relation to its US$ 110 million investment in a U.S. commodities business. 
  • Acted for a Hong Kong-based US$ 700 million hedge fund in disputes against a major Korean institutional investor, including in a consolidated UNCITRAL arbitration administered by the HKIAC in Hong Kong and governed by Jersey law.  In the arbitration, the institutional investor sought (among other things) findings that the hedge fund should be wound up on a just and equitable basis under Jersey law.  
  • Acted for a Chinese pharmaceutical conglomerate in a US$ 50 million London-seated LCIA arbitration governed by English law in relation to a pharmaceutical distribution and licensing agreement.
  • Acted for a Chinese conglomerate in a RMB 600 million HKIAC arbitration concerning disputes following the acquisition of shares in a Chinese real estate and hotel business.  The arbitration was governed by Hong Kong law and the language of the arbitration was Chinese.
  • Acted for a Chinese real estate developer in parallel HKIAC and CIETAC arbitration proceedings worth approximately US$ 170 million against its foreign joint venture partner in relation to a real estate development project in China.  The governing law of the HKIAC arbitration was Hong Kong law, and the arbitration was conducted in English and Chinese.  The governing law of the CIETAC arbitration was Chinese law, and the language of the arbitration was Chinese.
  • Acted for two Asian private equity funds in a US$ 53 million HKIAC arbitration concerning breaches of a shareholders agreement.  The arbitration was governed by Hong Kong law and involved complex issues relating to fraud and corruption (with potential criminal ramifications).
  • Acted for an Israeli company in a CIETAC Hong Kong arbitration in relation to an exclusive distribution agreement for the distribution of air conditioners in Israel.
  • Acted for a California automobile startup in a US$ 2 billion Hong Kong-seated HKIAC arbitration (including emergency arbitration proceedings) governed by Hong Kong law against its Chinese majority equity investor in respect of the investor’s funding obligations.  
  • Acted for a major European private bank in a US$ 200 million Taiwan-seated Chinese Arbitration Association arbitration against a Taiwanese insurance company in relation to certain transactions which turned out to be part of a fraudulent scheme.  
  • Acted for a Korean heavy industry conglomerate in a US$ 80 million Boston-seated ICDR arbitration governed by Massachusetts law in relation to the sale of wind turbines.
  • Acting for a listed Chinese electronics manufacturer in a US$ 20 million Hong Kong-seated HKIAC arbitration over a patent license agreement.
  • Represented the U.S. Chapter 11 trustee of a global seafood conglomerate in a dispute with its creditor, a global bank.  Advising local counsel in a Hong Kong court action to unseal a judgment for use in U.S. proceedings.
  • Represented the buyers of shares in a US$ 900 million London-seated ICC arbitration governed by English law against the sellers for alleged misrepresentation and breach of warranties in the SPA.
  • Represented a U.S. listed company in a Hong Kong-seated HKIAC arbitration governed by Hong Kong law against a Chinese supplier in relation to the sale of defective parts.


  • Represented a financial markets trader in a U.S. DOJ and CFTC criminal investigation related to certain trading conduct allegedly in violation of the U.S. Dodd-Frank Act.
  • Represented an investment-banking executive in a U.S. DOJ and SEC investigation related to the hiring of individuals connected to government officials in exchange for business, in violation of the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.
  • Represented a major U.S. heavy manufacturing company in an internal investigation into fraudulent sales practices in Korea. Worked with Korean counsel in overseeing the defence of the Korean subsidiary before South Korean prosecutors.
  • Represented a Swiss international conglomerate in an internal investigation in Korea related to alleged bribery, bid-rigging and manipulation of books and records through the use of third-party vendors, in potential violation of the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.
  • Represented a major pharmaceutical company in an internal bribery investigation related to the use of third-party distributors to pay kickbacks to healthcare professionals in China.
  • Represented a major pharmaceutical company in an internal investigation related to potentially fraudulent sales practices in India.


  • 2024-Present: Advocate, Duxton Hill Chambers (Singapore Group Practice)
  • 2019-2024: Counsel / Senior Associate, Sidley Austin LLP
  • 2017-2019: Associate, Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan LLP
  • 2015-2017: Associate, Ropes & Gray LLP
  • 2014-2015: Associate, Allen & Overy


  •  List of Arbitrators, Hong Kong International Arbitration Centre


  • J.D., Columbia Law School, 2014
  • LL.B., London School of Economics, 2013, First Class Honours
  • 2014: Parker School Certificate for Achievement in International and Comparative Law, Columbia Law School
  • 2014: James Kent Scholar, Columbia Law School
  • 2013: Harlan Fiske Stone Scholar, Columbia Law School
  • 2012: Blackstone Chambers Prize (EU Law) for best performance in EU Law, London School of Economics
  • 2012: Blackstone Chambers Prize (Human Rights) for best performance in Human Rights and Civil Liberties Law, London School of Economics
  • 2011: Hughes Parry Prize for best performance in Law of Obligations (Tort and Contract), London School of Economics
  • 2011: John Griffith Prize for highest aggregate examination score on First Year examinations, London School of Economics
  • 2011: Charltons Prize for best overall performance, London School of Economics


  • “M&A Arbitrations involving Multiple Parties and Contracts”, The Guide to M&A Arbitration, Global Arbitration Review, December 2022 (with Yan Zhang).
  • Hong Kong Chapter, Harald Sippel and Kabir Duggal (eds), Force Majeure and Hardship in the Asia Pacific Region, Juris Publishing, January 2022 (with Yan Zhang and Dennis Wu).
  • “Disclosure in International Commercial Arbitration and State Secrecy Laws in China,” Neil Kaplan, Michael Pryles, Chiann Bao (eds), International Arbitration: When East Meets West: Liber Amicorum Michael Moser, Wolters Kluwer, July 2020 (with Friven Yeoh).
  • “Iura Novit Curia in Hong Kong Arbitration Law” in Franco Ferrari and Giuditta Cordero-Moss (eds), Iura Novit Curia in International Arbitration, Juris Publishing, April 2018 (with Jennifer Lim).

Nathaniel Lai is practising from JFN Chambers LLC (UEN No. 202309397C), a limited liability law corporation