Asian Lawyer

Asian Top News

The Asian Lawyer’s Ready for Relaunch

By Asian Lawyer Staff |

On Monday, Aug. 25, the site will become part of a broader collection of global legal coverage by parent publication The American Lawyer. In the run-up to that launch, The Asian Lawyer site will be on standby.

China, Hong Kong, Singapore, Australia
Asia Deal Digest: Aug. 19, 2014

By Tom Brennan |

*Allen & Gledhill, Clifford Chance on OCBC’s $2.7 billion rights issue in Singapore
*HSF advises KKR/Abacus joint venture on stake purchase in Melbourne’s World Trade Center
*Gibson Dunn leads Chinese consortium’s $1.7 billion take-private offer for U.S. chipmaker OmniVision

Singapore
Allen & Gledhill on OCBC’s $2.7 Billion Rights Issue

By Anna Zhang |

Singapore’s second-largest lender by assets is looking to refill its coffers after spending $5 billion to purchase Hong Kong-based Wing Hang Bank.

China
Gibson Dunn on Chinese Consortium's Bid for OmniVision

By Anna Zhang |

Beijing-based Hua Capital Management and Shanghai Pudong Science and Technology Investment are looking to take the Santa Clara-based company private for $1.7 billion.

Hong Kong
Ashurst Hires in Hong Kong

By Anna Zhang |

Debt capital markets partner Anna-Marie Slot has moved over from White & Case.

India
Modi's Won, What Now for India?

By Tom Brennan |

Law firms and their clients are just as eager as the Indian electorate for new Prime Minister Narendra Modi to turn the country's ailing economy around. But can a man who was swept into office in India's biggest electoral victory in 30 years live up to the hype?

Japan
MoFo, Ashurst Lead CP Group-Itochu Alliance

By Tom Brennan |

The Thai conglomerate and Japanese trading house have struck a billion-dollar deal that will see them collaborate in the food and agribusiness sectors.

Raymond Kwok (left) and Thomas Kwok, co-chairmen of Sun Hung Kai Properties Ltd.

China, Hong Kong
Will Antitycoon Mood Affect Hong Kong Trial?

By Anthony Lin |

Thomas and Raymond Kwok, two of Hong Kong's—and the world's—richest men, are going on trial May 8 for allegedly bribing a senior government official. It is the territory's largest corruption trial ever, and it's taking place amid a rising tide of resentment toward the billionaire developers who dominate the Hong Kong economic landscape. Will antitycoon sentiment show up in the courtroom?

China
Appleby Gets Shanghai Practice License

By Tom Brennan |

The offshore firm opened an office in Shanghai in 2012 but previously only offered fiduciary services.

Australia
Aussie Firms on $6.6 Billion Toll Road Deal

By Anna Zhang |

A consortium led by Transurban Group, Australia’s largest toll road operator, is buying regional competitor Queensland Motorways Ltd.

China
Davis Polk Advises CNOOC on $4 Billion Bond Issue

By Anna Zhang |

The Chinese state-owned oil company will use the proceeds to repay funds borrowed to finance its $15.1 billion acquisition of Canada's energy company Nexen Inc.

China, Hong Kong, India, Singapore, Australia
Asia Deal Digest: April 24, 2014

By Tom Brennan |

* Herbert Smith Freehills and Freshfields lead on state-owned company's acquisition of Hess Oil assets in Thailand
* Cleary, O'Melveny and Kirkland on a Chinese IT company's $332 million take-private
* Willkie Farr guides a U.S. VC fund on a $250 million investment Down Under

Singapore
Linklaters on $1 Billion OCBC Bond Issue

By Tom Brennan |

The Singaporean bank sold the 10-year bonds in order to raise money for general corporate purposes and to comply with new reserve requirements.

South Korea
Google Lawyer Details Defense Pact With Samsung

By Julia Love, The Recorder |

Apple's trial team, led by Morrison & Foerster's Harold McElhinny, plays deposition testimony on Android indemnity agreement.

Japan
Mitsubishi Loses Appeal in Chip Design Case

By Scott Graham, The Recorder |

California's Sixth District Court of Appeal upheld a verdict against Mitsubishi Electric Inc. for breaching a non-disclosure agreement but agreed with a superior court judge that the $123 million awarded by jurors was excessive.

Thailand
Herbert Smith Freehills Advises Thai SOE on Hess Buyout

By Tom Brennan |

PTT Exploration and Production Pcl. is paying $1 billion for Hess' interest in two natural gas projects in Thailand.

China, Taiwan
K&L Gates Adds Taipei Partner

By Tom Brennan |

Jim Wu headed the Taipei office for the former Preston Gates & Ellis between 2002 and 2004.

India
Amarchand on $1 Billion Oil India Bond Issue

By Tom Brennan |

The state-owned oil company is raising funds to repay existing debt.

Robert Pe with Suu Kyi

Myanmar
The Lawyer and 'The Lady'

By Tom Brennan |

Since the fall of 2012, Robert Pé, a litigation and arbitration partner in the Hong Kong office of Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe, has served as senior legal adviser to Nobel Peace Prize winner and democracy advocate Aung San Suu Kyi, now a member of parliament and leader of the political opposition in Myanmar. The assignment has been the fulfillment of a longtime dream for Pé, whose father left the country formerly known as Burma 50 years ago.

Singapore
Morrison & Foerster Adds Singapore Partner

By Tom Brennan |

Shirin Tang was previously a counsel in the Singapore office of Shearman & Sterling.

China, Hong Kong, India, Malaysia, Australia
Asia Deal Digest: April 17, 2014

By Anna Zhang |

* White & Case and Linklaters lead on $5.85 billion Chinese mine acquisition in Peru
* Chinese retail group turns to Simpson Thacher for its takeover of a British department store chain
* Milbank advises the government of Sri Lanka on a third sovereign bond offering

Australia
HWL Ebsworth Acquires Adelaide Firm

By Tom Brennan |

HWL Ebsworth said the addition of 44-lawyer Kelly & Co would allow it to better serve clients with a presence in South Australia.

China
Simpson, Linklaters on Chinese Department Store Buy

By Anna Zhang |

A Chinese company is buy British department store chain House of Fraser for $804 million, with plans to open 50 stores in China.

China, Hong Kong
Skadden Advises Sinopec on $5 Billion Bond Issue

By Tom Brennan |

It is the third multibillion-dollar bond offering by the Chinese state-owned oil giant in the past year.

China
Three Firms on Chinese Group's $6 Billion Peru Mine Buy

By Tom Brennan |

A consortium of state-owned companies led by China Minmetals subsidiary MMG is acquiring the Las Bambas copper project in southern Peru from GlencoreXstrata.

India
S&R, Amarchand on Vodafone India Buyout

By Anna Zhang |

Vodafone last week paid $1.48 billion for the remaining 11 percent stake in Vodafone India Ltd. it didn’t already own, making it the first foreign telecom carrier to wholly own its Indian subsidiary.

China
Alibaba Asks Firms to Pick Sides

By Anna Zhang |

The Chinese e-commerce giant, which is expected to have the world's largest IPO since Facebook Inc. later this year, has let it be known that it won't be hiring any firm for transactional work that also advises its major competitors. Though such demands are not uncommon outside of Asia, not least in the U.S. tech sector, lawyers say firms face a more complicated choice in the super-competitive but still-developing China market.

China, Hong Kong, India, Japan, Singapore, Australia
Asia Deal Digest: April 10, 2014

By Tom Brennan |

* Shearman and Davis Polk on $3.2 billion merger of Indian generic drug makers
* Linklaters and Gilbert + Tobin advising a South African retailer on its $2 billion bid for Australia's David Jones department stores
* Chinese state food giant COFCO turns to Clifford Chance for Hong Kong grain trading acquisition

Australia
Four Firms on Woolworths' Aussie Acquisition

By Tom Brennan |

South African retailer Woolworths has offered to pay $2 billion for Australia's David Jones chain of upscale department stores.

China
Pinsent Masons Adds Partner in Beijing

By Anna Zhang |

Helena Chen was previously a partner in Taipei with Taiwanese law firm Formosan Brothers.

Australia
Aussie Firms on Wesfarmers' Insurance Brokerage Sale

By Tom Brennan |

U.S. insurance brokerage Arthur J. Gallagher & Co. has proposed buying the business of the Australian conglomerate for $933 million.

South Korea
Yoon & Yang Adds M&A Partner

By Tom Brennan |

Do Hyung Kim was previously a partner with rival Korean firm Yulchon.

India
Shearman, Davis Polk on $3.2 Billion India Drug Merger

By Anna Zhang |

Indian generic drug maker Sun Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd. is acquiring local competitor Ranbaxy Laboratories Ltd. from Japan's Daiichi Sankyo Co.

China, Hong Kong, United Kingdom
Anglo-American Firms Face Identity Choice in Asia

By Tom Brennan |

Should firms like DLA Piper or Hogan Lovells pitch themselves as British or American in Asia? At most firms resulting from transatlantic mergers, the British side brought more to the table in Asia and continues to run the show there. But there are also strong incentives to accentuate their American identities.

Australia
Sydney Employment Partner Joins DLA Piper

By Tom Brennan |

Brett Feltham was previously head of the New South Wales employment team at Hunt & Hunt.

Singapore
Clyde & Co Adds Singapore Partner

By Anna Zhang |

Eugene Tan will lead the British firm's Southeast Asian construction practice.

China, Hong Kong
Clifford Chance Advises COFCO on Hong Kong Acquisition

By Anna Zhang |

The Chinese state-owned food giant is buying a controlling stake in the agricultural unit of supply chain company Noble Group.

China, Hong Kong, India, Japan, Singapore, Australia
Asia Deal Digest: April 3, 2014

By Anna Zhang |

* HWL Ebsworth advises restructuring Aussie mall developer Westfield on $20 billion in loan facilities
* Slaughter and May and Freshfields on Singapore bank's proposed $5 billion Hong Kong acquisition
* Skadden guides Chinese antivirus software maker on $300 million U.S. IPO

India
Khaitan & Co Adds Two Partners

By Anna Zhang |

New Mumbai partner Kartick Maheshwari is joining the Indian firm from the Singapore office of White & Case, while Delhi partner Dibyanshu Sinha was most recently a senior associate with J. Sagar Associates.

Australia
Herbert Smith Freehills on $2.76 Billion Motorway Deal

By Anna Zhang |

A consortium led by Queensland state government-owned investment fund QIC Ltd. has agreed to pay $2.76 billion to build the nine-kilometer NorthConnex Motorway near Sydney.

Australia
Aussie Firms on $20 Billion Westfield Financing

By Anna Zhang |

The loans will finance a restructuring that will split the Australian shopping mall developer into domestic and international arms.

China
Three Partners Join Zhong Lun in Shanghai

By Anna Zhang |

The trio includes former King & Wood Mallesons and Morrison & Foerster partner Edward Li.

Singapore
Norton Rose Fulbright Adds Singapore Partner

By Anna Zhang |

Sheela Moorthy was previously the Singapore corporate head for DLA Piper.

China, Hong Kong
Magic Circle Firms on $5 Billion Hong Kong Bank Bid

By Anna Zhang |

Oversea-Chinese Banking Corp., Singapore’s second-largest lender, is offering to buy Hong Kong's Wing Hang Bank Ltd. in a bid to expand its reach into China.

China
Slaughter and May on Alibaba Offline Investment

By Anna Zhang |

The Chinese e-commerce giant is investing $692 million in Beijing-based department store operator Intime Retail (Group) Co. Ltd.

China, Hong Kong
V&E Partner Moves to Latham Hong Kong

By Anna Zhang |

David Blumental previously headed Vinson & Elkins' Shanghai office, which was closed last year.

China
A Merger Wave on the Horizon for Chinese Firms?

By Anna Zhang |

A potential merger between two of China's top law firms—Jun He Law Offices and Zhong Lun Law Firm—has launched a flurry of speculation in the region about what such a combination would mean, both for the two firms involved and the still-developing Chinese legal profession.

China, Hong Kong
Two Partners Join Howse Williams Bowers

By Anna Zhang |

Stacy Devoy was previously a Hong Kong partner with Withers while Alison Scott was mostly recently chair of the Residential Property Tribunal in Wales.

China
K&L Gates Adds Beijing Partner

By Tom Brennan |

Frank Voon was previously a counsel with Allen & Overy.

China
U.S. Judge Rules Baidu Has Protected Right to Censor

By Tom Brennan |

A New York federal judge dismissed a lawsuit over Baidu's blocking of pro-democracy content, ruling that the Chinese search engine had a First Amendment right to control the content presented to its users.

India
Jones Day on Indian Government Bank Share Sale

By Anna Zhang |

The government is selling part of its stake in privately held Axis Bank to help close a budget deficit.

China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Singapore, Australia
Asia Deal Digest: March 27, 2014

By Tom Brennan |

* Latham advising Georgina Rinehart's Roy Hill iron mine on largest project financing ever
* Clifford Chance and Freshfields on Temasek's proposed $5.7 billion investment in Hong Kong retail group A.S. Watson
* Malaysian telecom giant Axiata turns to Sidley for a major Indonesian acquisition

South Korea
Skadden Opens in Seoul

By Tom Brennan |

The firm has relocated partner H. Young Shin, head of the its Korea practice, from New York to lead the new office.

Australia
Ashurst Advising German Builder on Leighton Bid

By Anna Zhang |

Hochtief Aktiengesellschaft A.G. is offering to pay $1.1 billion to increase its stake in Australian construction company Leighton Holdings Ltd.

Indonesia
Sidley on $865 Million Indonesian Mobile Acquisition

By Tom Brennan |

The Indonesian subsidiary of Malaysian mobile telecommunications carrier Axiata Group Bhd. is buying local rival PT Axis Telekom Indonesia from Saudi Telecom Co.

China
Zhong Lun, Jun He Discussing Possible Merger

By Anna Zhang |

The two Beijing-based law firms are generally considered to be among China's top three with King & Wood Mallesons. A merger between Zhong Lun Law Firm and Jun He Law Offices would create a combined firm with about 1,300 lawyers.

Australia
Clayton Utz Closes Hong Kong Office

By Tom Brennan |

The Australian firm said it has decided to focus on its home market. Its four-partner Hong Kong affiliate will carry on as a stand-alone firm.

Clearing Ltd.'s executive officer Charles Li.

China, Hong Kong
Hong Kong Looks Beyond Lost Alibaba IPO

By Anna Zhang |

Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group's decision to hold what's expected to be the world's largest initial public offering since Facebook in New York instead of Hong Kong was long anticipated. But the company's recent final decision, which coincided with announcements of U.S. listings by other leading Chinese tech companies, has nevertheless swiftly renewed anxieties about Hong Kong’s future as an IPO destination.

China, Hong Kong
Magic Circle Firms on $5.7 Billion Li Ka-shing Deal

By Anna Zhang |

Singaporean sovereign wealth fund Temasek Holdings Pte. Ltd. is buying a 24.95 percent stake in A.S. Watson, the retail unit of Hong Kong conglomerate Hutchison Whampoa Ltd.

Australia
Latham, A&O on $7.9 Billion Roy Hill Financing

By Anna Zhang |

The loans to develop an iron ore mine in Western Australia amount to the largest project financing ever in the mining sector.

Japan
Toyota Pays $1.2B for Misleading U.S.; Civil Claims Remain

By Amanda Bronstad |

A $1.2 billion settlement between Toyota Motor Corp. and the U.S. Department of Justice will have little direct effect on negotiations to settle remaining lawsuits over deaths and injuries associated with sudden acceleration, but could sway jurors should those cases go to trial, according to attorneys involved in those actions.

China, Hong Kong, India, Singapore, Australia
Asia Deal Digest: March 20, 2014

By Anna Zhang |

* Alibaba confirms New York IPO with Simpson Thacher at the helm
* Allen & Gledhill and WongPartnership on Temasek-led bid to acquire commodities trader Olam
* Latham leads on Indian travel site's $126.5 million Nasdaq share offering

Japan
Two Partners Join Pillsbury in Tokyo

By Tom Brennan |

Energy and infrastructure specialists Anthony Raven and Simon Barrett were previously partners in the Tokyo offices of Hogan Lovells and Simmons & Simmons, respectively.

China, Hong Kong
Loeb & Loeb Adds Hong Kong Partner

By Tom Brennan |

Jae Chul Lee was previously a partner in Hong Kong with DLA Piper.

Singapore
Singapore Firms on Temasek-led Olam Acquisition

By Anna Zhang |

A consortium led by the Singapore sovereign wealth fund has offered to buy outstanding shares of commodities trader Olam for around $2 billion.

Japan
K&L Gates Adds Tokyo Partner

By Tom Brennan |

Philip Hyde was formerly head of the finance practice in Hogan Lovells' Tokyo office.

China
China's Light Touch on Insider Trading

By Anna Zhang |

In what's believed to be its first enforcement action against a lawyer for insider trading, the China Securities Regulatory Commission fined Jun He Law Offices partner Mi Xingping just $5,000. A number of lawyers in the country say insider trading is not usually viewed as a serious offense in China, with offenders more often hailed as clever than reviled as criminal.

Myanmar
Berwin Leighton Enters Myanmar Alliance

By Tom Brennan |

The firm is partnering with Yangon-based Legal Network Consultants.

South Korea
Prosecutor Moves to Defense at Yoon & Yang

By Tom Brennan |

Young Kon Cho is joining the firm from the Seoul Central District Prosecutors' Office, where he was chief prosecutor.

South Korea
Yulchon Adds IP Partner

By Tom Brennan |

Dong Soo Han was most recently presiding judge of the Civil Appellate Court in Suwon, and has spent 16 years as a judge in various Korean courts.

Singapore
Stephenson Harwood Global Aviation Head Joins Milbank

By Anna Zhang |

Paul Ng will lead Milbank's Asian aviation practice from Singapore.

Singapore
Rajah & Tann Adds Singapore Partner

By Tom Brennan |

Marae Ciantar was formerly the Singapore managing partner for Australian firm Allens.

China
Jingtian & Gongcheng Fined Over IPO Due Diligence

By Anna Zhang |

The leading Beijing capital markets law firm says it was fined $50,000 and ordered to disgorge $25,000 in legal fees by China’s securities regulator, which also lifted a four-month ban on IPO applications from the firm.

Australia
Asia Deal Digest: March 13, 2014

By Tom Brennan |

* MoFo advises Singapore's GLP on its $1.4 billion purchase of Brazilian warehouse space
* Chinese auction house Poly Group turns to Clifford Chance for $331 million IPO
* Davis Polk and Skadden on Tencent's strategic alliance with online retailer JD.com.

China, Hong Kong
Dentons Adds Hong Kong Partner

By Anna Zhang |

Wei Guangqin was previously a special counsel at Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson specializing in corporate finance and capital markets.

South Korea
Bae, Kim & Lee Brings Aboard Three Ex-Judges

By Anna Zhang |

Taeck Soo Kwon, most recently an appellate judge with the Seoul High Court, is joining the firm’s intellectual property practice. Former Seoul Central District Court judge Joo Hyae Jun and former Supreme Court research judge Il Yeon Kim will join the firm's litigation department.

China, Hong Kong
New Partner Joining Berwin Leighton in Hong Kong

By Anna Zhang |

Nigel Ward was previously a Beijing partner with Norton Rose Fulbright.

China
Davis Polk and Skadden on Strategic Tencent Deal

By Anna Zhang |

The Chinese Internet giant's investment in online retailer JD.com could help it challenge Alibaba's e-commerce dominance.

Singapore
Harneys Opening in Singapore

By Anna Zhang |

The offshore firm's global banking and finance head is relocating from Hong Kong to head the new office.

China, Hong Kong
The Asian Lawyer All-Star Awards

By Anthony Lin |

On March 5, at a gala dinner held at the Conrad Hotel in Hong Kong, The Asian Lawyer presented its inaugural All-Star Awards. We sought to do something different, recognizing excellence in advising key industries rather than simply honoring the biggest, highest-profile deals of the year (though we took those into account too). We also said we would be publishing the reasons for the decisions that we made. And so here we do exactly that, category by category.

Singapore
MoFo Advises Global Logistic Properties on Brazil Deal

By Tom Brennan |

The Singapore-based company is buying 34 warehouses, most of which are in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, from commercial real estate investor BR Properties SA.

India
Trilegal on $1.6 Billion Indian Power Plant Deal

By Tom Brennan |

The Indian law firm is advising a consortium of investors led by Abu Dhabi National Energy Co. on its proposed acquisition of two hydropower assets from a subsidiary of conglomerate Jaypee Group.

China, Hong Kong, India, Japan, Singapore, Australia
Asia Deal Digest: March 6, 2014

By Anna Zhang |

* Sullivan & Cromwell and Mori Hamada team for Japan Display's $3.8 billion Tokyo IPO
* Clifford Chance advises Chinese state food giant COFCO on its acquisition of a Dutch grain trader
* Skadden on planned $500 million IPO for Chinese microblogging service Sina Weibo

China
Clifford Chance Advises China's Cofco on Nidera Buy

By Anna Zhang |

The state-owned food giant's acquisition of a controlling stake in a Dutch grain trader is seen as driven by the Chinese government's desire to secure food supplies.

Japan
S&C, Mori Hamada on Japan Display's $3.8 Billion IPO

By Tom Brennan |

The state-backed company, which counts Apple Inc. among its customers, was created when the display divisions of Sony Corp., Toshiba Corp. and Hitachi Ltd. merged in 2011.

Thailand
Rajah & Tann Recruits Hunton & Williams Team in Bangkok

By Tom Brennan |

Surasak Vajasit, Melisa Uremovic and Pakpoom Suntornvipat will all join Singapore-based Rajah & Tann as partners, taking 11 lawyers with them.

China, Hong Kong
Skadden Advising Sina Weibo on $500 Million IPO

By Anna Zhang |

China's Twitter-like 'microblogging' service is seeking a U.S. listing.

South Korea
Clifford Chance, Simpson Advise on Carlyle's Tyco Deal

By Tom Huddleston Jr. |

Tyco International is selling its South Korean fire protection and security unit to buyout firm Carlyle Group for $1.93 billion in cash.

Japan
Baker & McKenzie Acting for Mt. Gox on Tokyo Bankruptcy

By Anna Zhang |

Tokyo District Court has accepted the troubled bitcoin exchange’s civil rehabilitation application, in which Mt. Gox will be granted protection from creditors while it seeks a buyer.

China, Hong Kong
Howse Williams Bowers Start of Hong Kong Indie Wave?

By Tom Brennan |

The former Reed Smith Richards Butler partners who launched the firm two years ago see opportunity in independence, while so many others have staked their fortunes on tie-ups with large international players. And they say others may follow in their footsteps.

Australia
K&L Gates Hires Sydney Partner

By Tom Brennan |

Former Henry Davis York partner Elizabeth Gray has joined the firm's investment management practice.

Singapore
Herbert Smith Freehills Drops Singapore QFLP License

By Anthony Lin |

Singapore's Ministry of Law announced Friday that four other foreign firms renewed their licenses, which allow them to practice Singapore law in exchange for meeting certain local hiring and revenue targets, while one firm was given a one-year conditional extension.

China
Ashurst Advises China's Greenland on London Project

By Anna Zhang |

The Chinese state-owned developer has acquired a 7.75-acre site in southwest London where it plans to build a $1 billion mixed-use complex.

China, Hong Kong, India, Singapore, Australia
Asia Deal Digest: February 27, 2014

By Tom Brennan |

* Skadden guides Holland's Vitol on $2.6 billion acquisition of Shell assets in Australia
* Herbert Smith Freehills advises Chinese copper recycler on Hong Kong IPO
* Wilmer and Amarchand team for $110 million Web hosting acquisition in India

China, Hong Kong
Magic Circle Firms on Harbin Bank IPO

By Anna Zhang |

The lender is the latest Chinese commercial bank to seek a Hong Kong listing to increase capital adequacy ratios in response to tighter regulatory requirements.

China
Curtis Mallet-Prevost Opens in Beijing

By Anna Zhang |

The new office, the first in China for the New York firm, will focus on international trade matters.

Myanmar
Allen & Gledhill Opens in Myanmar

By Tom Brennan |

The Singaporean firm is the latest international law firm to open an office in the newly opened economy.

Australia
HWL Ebsworth Adds Five Partners

By Tom Brennan |

The Australian firm has brought aboard new partners in Perth, Sydney and Brisbane.

South Korea
Bird & Bird Enters Korea Alliance

By Anna Zhang |

The U.K. firm has signed a nonexclusive agreement with 95-lawyer Hwang Mok Park.

China, United States
Lawyers in Asia Shocked by U.S. Role in Spying, Not Spying Itself

By Tom Brennan |

Law firms have long taken elaborate precautions, often including leaving the country, to protect against expected surveillance in China. But news that the U.S. National Security Agency, through allies in Australian intelligence, listened in on communications between an American law firm and its client has been met with a mix of surprise and shrugged shoulders.