Law firm Zaid Ibrahim & Co insists name does not belong to ex-minister

Mohd Zaid had on November 18 had filed a suit against Zaid Ibrahim & Co to stop the firm from using his name in legal practice. — Picture by Saw Siow Feng
Mohd Zaid had on November 18 had filed a suit against Zaid Ibrahim & Co to stop the firm from using his name in legal practice. — Picture by Saw Siow Feng

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 2 — The legal firm Zaid Ibrahim & Co stated that at all material times the name ‘Zaid Ibrahim & Co’ and its goodwill belonged to the firm and not the former minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Mohd Zaid Ibrahim.

The firm said such goodwill was developed through the efforts of all the partners of the firm, which continued well after Mohd Zaid ceased having any interests in the firm in March 2008.

Zaid Ibrahim & Co said that for approximately 12 years after the plaintiff (Mohd Zaid) ceased having any interests in the firm in March 2008, the firm has provided professional services without any of its client having been misled or confused that these services were provided by or in any way associated with the plaintiff personally.

“The interest and goodwill in the name and style of the firm ‘Zaid Ibrahim & Co’ is not owned or in any way connected to the plaintiff,” the firm said in its statement of defence filed through law firm Messrs Tommy Thomas today.

Zaid Ibrahim & Co, who was named as the sole defendant said, when Mohd Zaid was appointed as a Cabinet Minister in March 2008, he was further barred by law from having a practising certificate as he was gainfully employed as Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department during the said period.

The firm said, as a matter of law, the plaintiff could not continue to have any interest whatsoever in the firm, whether in the equity of the firm of the name ‘Zaid Ibrahim & Co’ from March 2008.

“In consequence, the plaintiff was compelled to enter into a Sale and Purchase Agreement dated March 24, 2008 with Chew Seng Kok and Datuk Seri Dr Nik Norzul Thani Nik Hassan Thani, whereby the plaintiff sold all his remaining equity in the firm to the Chew and Nik Norzul for the purchase price of RM26.65 million.

“Under the agreement, it was agreed that the purchase price would be paid by instalments over a period of 20 years, commencing on March 31, 2008, with the final payment to be made on the 21st year of that agreement, that is 2029. The plaintiff has hitherto been paid in accordance with the terms of the agreement,” said the firm.

On Nov 18, Mohd Zaid, who is also counsel had filed the suit against Zaid Ibrahim & Co to stop the firm from using his name in legal practice and to demand the return of the firm’s name.

In his statement of claim, Mohd Zaid said he formed the legal firm as a sole proprietorship under his name in 1987 and began the practice under the name Zaid Ibrahim & Co before slowly expanding the firm by including other partners, including Chew and Nik Norzrul.

He said that throughout his legal practice, he had built a good reputation for the firm as it became a panel law firm to financial institutions and government-linked companies until he left the firm after being appointed as a minister in 2008.

Mohd Zaid said after he left the firm, other partners took over, with Chew as managing partner and Nik Norzrul as chairman.

He added that he intended to return to the profession in 2018 and asked Chew and Nik Norzrul to stop using his name and to return the name to him as he wanted to start his own firm.

Mohd Zaid said because they refused to do so, he, through his lawyers, submitted a claim in a letter dated Sept 24 for them to cease using his name.

On Oct 5, they made him an offer to rejoin the legal practice with Zaid Ibrahim & Co as an existing equity partner and chairman beginning Nov 1.

He said he accepted the offer and rejoined the firm but had his services terminated with immediate effect on Nov 9 and ceased to be a partner or a member of the firm.

He claimed that with his termination, the partnership has been dissolved but the defendant continued its practice as a new firm without the plaintiff.

“In this situation, the defendant has no legal right to use the name of the plaintiff in its newly formed legal practice,” Mohd Zaid said.

He is seeking an injunction to stop the defendant or any of its agents from using the name, Zaid Ibrahim, in whatever form or style as its firm’s name relating to legal practice and also seeking an order for the defendant to hand over all materials, including letterheads, notes, invoices and brochures printed with his name, in addition to damages for the misuse of the plaintiff’s name, costs and other relief deemed suitable by the court. — Bernama