Murali Pillai, SC


Practice Area:

Commercial Litigation
Employment & Benefits
Appeals & Issues

LL.B. (Hons), National University of Singapore, 1992
LLM, National University of Singapore, 2000
MBA, UCLA 2008
MBA, National University of Singapore, 2008
Advocate & Solicitor, Singapore, 1996
Solicitor of England & Wales (non-practising), 2001
FSIArb, 2005
MCIArb, 2005
ISCA Associate (Specialist), 2018
ISCA FFP, 2018

T +65 6232 0768

Murali Pillai SC is a Partner at Rajah & Tann Singapore LLP. He was appointed as Senior Counsel in January 2020.  

He has an active 25-year practice dealing with a wide spectrum of matters, including employment law and financial services. He also advises financial institutions on contentious regulatory matters.

Murali is recognised as a leading lawyer in various legal publications such as Chambers Asia Pacific, The Legal 500 and Asialaw Profiles.

He is recognised as a Leading Individual by The Legal 500 (Legalease) in their Asia Pacific 2021 edition.

He was chosen as “In-House Community Commended External Counsel of the Year” for 2020; a choice made entirely by in-house counsel. One of the nominating in-house counsel commented that “Mr Pillai is an astute and highly-competent lawyer with a commercial mindset and fantastic people skills”.

The 2020 edition of Chambers Asia Pacific notes that Murali is known by sources as “an excellent litigator”, and The Legal 500 Asia Pacific commends that he is “well regarded for his extensive employment-related litigation expertise” in the 2019 edition, and also an “extremely versatile and commercially astute” lawyer who “provides clear, succinct and on-point advice” for labour and employment in the 2018 edition.

He is commended in the In-House Community External Counsel of the Year 2018 as being “extremely skilled, knowledgeable and competent. Very practical, he picks up on commercial needs and concerns quickly. Prompt, despite being in heavy demand, he is a man of integrity who gives his best no matter how big or small the matter.”

Prior to pursuing a career in law, Murali served as an Assistant Superintendent of Police in the Singapore Police Force.

With his team of top-performing colleagues, his commitment is to provide his clients with timely, business oriented and cost-effective solutions. 


Murali has argued several landmark civil and criminal cases in the Supreme Court of Singapore. He has also been appointed as arbitrator in both international and domestic disputes. Highlighted below are several of his cases.

Employment, regulatory and directors’ disputes
  • Acted for a financial institution to pursue a claim arising from mass departure of more than 200 of its advisers to a competitor.
  • Appeared before a special 5-judge bench in the Court of Appeal to successfully overturn a conviction of a company and its director and order for forfeiture of rosewood with an estimated value of US$50 million under the Endangered Species (Import and Export) Act.
  • Acted for a former Member of Parliament charged with offence of criminal breach of trust as an agent in his capacity as President of a National Sports Association. His client was acquitted without entering a defence. The acquittal was upheld on appeal too.
  • Acted for several multinational companies in employment matters which require enforcement of restrictive covenants to protect confidential information and secrets.
  • Acted for a hospital to defend a claim for unfair dismissal and defamation brought by its ex-employee, a senior doctor.
  • Acted for a private bank against its ex-employee, a bank officer, who defrauded the bank of a big sum of money.
  • Acted for several financial institutions in employment issues arising from the departure and recruitment of senior employees involving issues of enforcement of post-termination restrictive covenants and banking secrecy.
  • Advised and acted for a telecommunications company in a claim against one of its ex-retail executive for breach of employment contract in wrongfully misappropriating 106 handsets over a sustained period of more than 2 years.
  • Acted for the Singapore subsidiary of a leading Japanese manufacturing company listed on the Tokyo Stock Exchange on the termination of the employment of a long-serving employee amidst allegations that the company had failed to make Central Provident Fund contributions to the employee.
  • Acted for a life insurer against 2 of its financial director in an action where it was alleged that the life insurer provided false reference checks negligently.
  • Acted for a multi-national company in its action against its former director for breach of fiduciary duties and recovery of assets purchased using company funds.
  • Acted for a bank to recover substantial amount of money and assets from an employee who defrauded the bank.
  • Advised and acted for the Singapore branch of a Hong Kong-based bank to effect a claw-back of a sign-on bonus following the departure of a senior management employee.
Financial services work
  • Acted for a private bank in the Singapore International Commercial Court (SICC) against guarantors of a commercial loan in which the subsequent multi-billion dollar merger of the bank was called to question and successfully defended in the SICC and subsequently in the Court of Appeal.
  • Acted for a private bank against a beneficiary of trust which alleged that the bank had assisted an individual in committing a breach of trust. The case was dismissed after a trial on a preliminary point which resulted in a significant saving of time and cost for the bank.
  • Acted for private banks in several High Court and Court of Appeal cases where clients had alleged mis-selling, breach of contractual and tortious duties, etc. against the banks.
  • Acted for a bank in an action against a mortgagor, whose committee, appointed under the Mental Disorders & Treatment Act, claimed that the mortgagor acted under undue influence and did not have the capacity at the time to carry out the mortgage.
  • Acted for a bank to recover substantial amount of money paid out to third parties by reason of a fraud on the bank.
  • Advised several banks on regulatory requirements in relation to the anti-money laundering and international sanctions issues.
  • Advised a bank on the local issues arising from action by the US authorities in the US Federal District Court pursuant to the US PATRIOT Act.
  • Acted for an insurer to recover a substantial amount of money paid to a policyholder by mistake.
  • Acted for a life insurer against a policyholder in a case involving serious allegation of forgery.
Commercial disputes
  • Argued for the recognition of the common law tort of harassment for the first time in Singapore.
  • Acted for a director and shareholder in a High Court claim involving issues of breaches of fiduciary duties and conditions in a distributorship agreement.
  • Acted for a minority shareholder against a listed company, the majority shareholder, in a minority oppression case.
  • Argued for the Law Society of Singapore before the Court of 3 Judges for the admission of video and audio recordings surreptitiously taken by a private investigator as substantive evidence. This case is the leading Singapore case on the treatment of entrapment evidence.
  • Acted and argued successfully for a former Director of Commercial Affairs Department accused of committing Criminal Breach of Trust. This was a special case stated (the 1st in more than 30 years then) before the Chief Justice on the evidential treatment of representations made to the Attorney-General Chambers.
  • Acted for the biggest ready-mixed concrete company in Singapore both at trial and at the Court of Appeal against claims arising from the 2007 ban by the Indonesian government against the import of sand into Singapore.
  • Acted for the executors of the estate of a well-known personality in a probate matter where allegations of malfeasance on the part of the executors were raised.
  • Acted for a purchaser in an aborted deal for shares in a company that was to be listed against the vendor who sued to complete the deal in a well-publicised trial as well as its ensuing appeal.
  • Acted for a statutory board in an action involving the issue of whether promissory estoppel can arise over state land.
  • Acted for a systems and equipment integration company in arbitrations involving complex engineering disputes arising from a turnkey project with its suppliers.
  • Acted for a listed company against its joint venture partner in an international ICC arbitration concerning disputes arising from a sewerage and waste treatment plant project.
  • Acted for a statutory board to resist a judicial review application by a temple requiring the board to offer a piece of state land.
  • Acted for a listed company in a judicial review application against the Commissioner of Buildings to quash his decision issued against the company.
  • Board Member, Workforce Singapore
  • Board Member, Land Transport Authority
  • Fellow, Singapore Institute of Arbitrators
  • Member, Chartered Institute of Arbitrators, UK
  • Member, Law Society of Singapore
  • Contributing Editor, Singapore Civil Procedure (2020)
  • Contributor, 2 chapters dealing with “Scheme of Arrangement and Judicial Management”, Law and Practice of Corporate Insolvency, published by LexisNexis (2014)
  • Contributor, “Legal Systems of Asian Countries on Debt Collection”, Financial Law Journal (10 Feb 2014)
  • Contributor, “A Parent Company’s Responsibility to its Subsidiary’s Employees”, Law News, published by Rajah & Tann Singapore LLP (July 2012)
  • Contributor, “The Duty of a Stockbroker to its Client”, Law News, published by Rajah & Tann Singapore LLP (Aug 2011)
  • Contributor, “Battle of the Forms: When a Third Entrant Wins”, Law News, published by Rajah & Tann Singapore LLP (Apr 2011)
  • Contributor, “Can Entire Agreement and Exclusion Clauses Cure Misrepresentations”, Law News, published by Rajah & Tann Singapore LLP (Jan 2011)
  • Contributor, “The Court's Disapproval of Expert Shopping”, Law News, published by Rajah & Tann Singapore LLP (Nov 2010)
  • Contributor, “When Must a Party Elect Between Contractual Termination and Common Law Repudiation”, Law News, published by Rajah & Tann Singapore LLP (Sep 2010)
  • Contributor, “Examining the Opt-In Nature of the Electronic Discovery Practice Direction”, Law News, published by Rajah & Tann LLP (Jun 2010)
  • Contributor, “Beneficial Owner of Property Can Claim for Foreseeable Economic Losses in an Action for Negligence”, Law News, published by Rajah & Tann Singapore LLP (Jun 2010)
  • Contributor, “Withholding Key Information During Negotiations May Constitute Misrepresentation”, Law News, published by Rajah & Tann Singapore LLP (May 2010)
  • Contributor, “Financial Crisis Does Not Render Contractual Terms Commercially Absurd”, Law News, published by Rajah & Tann Singapore LLP (May 2010)
  • Contributor, “Oral Representations May Supersede Written Quotations in Business Negotiations”, Law News, published by Rajah & Tann Singapore LLP (April 2010)
  • Contributor, “Revisiting the High Court’s Revisionary Jurisdiction to Enhance Sentences in Criminal Cases”, 21 SACLJ135 (2009)
  • Contributor, “Threshold test for anti-suit injunctions”, Law News, published by Rajah & Tann Singapore LLP (Dec 2009)
  • Contributor, “Parties may be permitted to construe contractual provision in a way inconsistent with its syntax, Law News, published by Rajah & Tann Singapore LLP (Aug 2009)
  • Contributor, “Bona fide intention when exercising rights under ‘break’ clauses in lease agreements”, Law News, published by Rajah & Tann Singapore LLP (Mar 2009)
  • Contributor, “No discretion to exclude Evidence Act”, Law News, published by Rajah & Tann Singapore LLP (Feb 2008)
  • Contributor, “Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters to be Provided in More Instances”, Law News, published by Rajah & Tann Singapore LLP (2007)
  • Contributor, “A Profound Change in The Duty to Inform a Patient of Risks”, Law Lines, published by Rajah & Tann Singapore LLP (Dec 2004)
  • Contributor, 2 chapters dealing with “Scheme of Arrangement and Judicial Management”, Law and Practice on Corporate Insolvency, published by Butterworths (2005)
  • Contributor, Money Laundering Terrorism and Financial Institutions, published by Civic Research Institute, Inc. (2004)