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DFDL, former partners continue their dispute

DFDL, former partners continue their dispute

The dispute between DFDL, the regional advisory firm that over the weekend appeared to lose much of its Cambodian tax team, and its former partners continued yesterday as both sides argued over the split.

Edwin Vanderbruggen, a DFDL partner who served as managing director of the company’s tax and customs practice group, announced on Saturday by email that he, fellow partner Jean Loi and a number of DFDL tax advisers had left to form an independent venture.

Although Vanderbruggen and Loi claimed they had left DFDL on good terms, DFDL later rejected that notion in a statement, saying the company was “surprised and disappointed” to learn of its employees’ “sudden departure”.

Vanderbruggen’s email listed as many as 15 DFDL employees, apart from the two departing partners, that would join the new company, VDB Loi.

DFDL regional chief executive Michel Dauguet, however, said yesterday some of those employees were still with the company.

He also said he could not confirm the exact number of employees who had left, as they had not submitted individual resignation letters.

“At least one adviser listed in Edwin’s announcement indicated that he/she was not even aware of his/her alleged change of employer,” Dauguet said.

“Another two indicated that they had not received any offer from the new entity.”

Vanderbruggen yesterday  denied that the list of departing employees in his Saturday email was wrong. 

“The list that I sent out is correct .  .  .  and there have been no changes.”

Dauguet noted that Vanderbruggen and the firm’s partners were in discussions about the split. DFDL would let those discussions “run their due course before settling on any appropriate course of action”, he said.

“In order not to compromise our ability to implement any measures, whatever these might be, these will remain internal matters and not be disclosed publicly in the short term,” Dauguet said.

Vanderbruggen declined to comment on any discussions between him and DFDL about his contractual obligations to the firm, including non-compete clauses, saying it was “an internal matter”.

DFDL continued its operations yesterday, in addition to rebuilding its staff, Dauguet said. “We have serviced clients with integrated legal and tax services for 18 years . . . and we will continue doing so for many years to come.”

DFDL had named Jack Sheehan, who previously served as regional director of the company’s tax and customs practice  in Laos, to replace Vanderbruggen, Dauguet said.

He said DFDL was “finalising some discussions with high-calibre candidates” and planned to make an announcement “in the coming days” about new tax advisers that would join the firm.

In response, Vanderbruggen said he was “pleased to hear that DFDL will put together a team under Jack’s leadership”.

“I recruited Jack myself in Laos eight months ago. He’s a good guy. I have no doubt DFDL will continue to offer tax advisory services and will be good at it,” he said.

Dauguet rejected that suggestion, claiming another partner based in Laos was primarily responsible for bringing Sheehan on board. Vanderbruggen was a part of the overall recruitment process, though, he said.

“As it turns out, Jack’s loyalty remained to DFDL and . . . not to Edwin,” Dauguet said.

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