DBS sues magazine over comments on Temasek links.
- By Jake Lloyd-Smith in Singapore.
14 January 2003
South China Morning Post
(c) 2003 South China Morning Post Publishers Limited, Hong Kong. All
Singapore's political leaders have long had a fondness for targeting
their opponents and the media with defamation lawsuits when they feel
that they have been maligned. Now one of the city-state's biggest
businesses is taking a similar tack.
DBS Group, the state-linked financial group, and its main subsidiary,
DBS Bank, are suing international magazine BusinessWeek for comments
published last year that examined trends and changes among government-
Last week the magazine's lawyers indicated that their client would
contest the case, according to a document filed with Singapore's High
Court on Thursday. According to a November 27 writ of summons - seen
by the South China Morning Post yesterday - DBS Group and DBS Bank
are demanding that the magazine and its publisher, United States-
based McGraw-Hill, pay aggravated damages for the comments, plus
DBS Group and its subsidiary also want the magazine served with a
restraining order that prevents it from publishing the same or
similar comments in future.
The DBS writ names as defendants Michael Shari, BusinessWeek's
Singapore bureau chief, and its editor-in-chief, Stephen Shepard.
The writ alleges that a September 9 article in the magazine's Asian
edition - "Stirring Up Singapore Inc" - "injured (the plaintiffs')
credit and reputation" and brought DBS Group and DBS Bank
into "public scandal, odium and contempt". It added that the article
was "riddled with factual inaccuracies".
The article reported on the appointment in May of Ho Ching to a
powerful new role at Temasek Holdings, the government's main domestic
investment agency. Ms Ho is a high-profile businesswoman, who is also
married to Deputy Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.
The BusinessWeek report looked at changes at some Temasek companies
in the months following Ms Ho's appointment, including an ultimately
abortive bid by senior executives at state-linked NatSteel to buy
their own company.
The allegedly defamatory statements centre on the relationship
between Temasek and DBS Group and DBS Bank. In particular, they
focused on an alleged offer of loan financing to NatSteel's
management for the buyout bid from the banking group.
Temasek was involved with many aspects of the drawn out battle for
NatSteel, which was taken over last week by investment consortium 98
Temasek was a direct shareholder in NatSteel, plus an indirect
shareholder in NatSteel through DBS Group. It is also an equity
holder in 98 Holdings.
During the takeover battle both Temasek and DBS sold their NatSteel
stakes to 98 Holdings, although there is no suggestion that either of
them acted improperly.
The role played in Singapore by Temasek is a sensitive topic in the
Ms Ho's appointment also generated extensive media discussion due in
part to her membership of Singapore's most important family. Mr Lee,
her husband, is expected to succeed Goh Chok Tong as prime minister,
while his father and Ms Ho's father-in-law, Lee Kuan Yew, is the
country's Senior Minister.
Included in the Temasek stable are some of Singapore's best known
companies including DBS Group, flag-carrier Singapore Airlines and
defence conglomerate Singapore Technologies.
The plaintiffs' writ said that DBS Group and DBS Bank had written to
BusinessWeek in September asking for a withdrawal of the statements
and an apology. The magazine's lawyers replied in two letters the
In the separate reply dated last Thursday, the magazine's lawyers
said their clients would "deny each and every allegation made in the
statement of claim" by DBS Group and DBS Bank.
DBS Group and BusinessWeek representatives did not offer separate