Goldman Fights Back in Suit Against Indonesian Businessman

  • U.S. bank files $1 billion counterclaim against Tjokrosaputro
  • Hanson executive is suing Goldman over shares he claims to own

Goldman Sachs Group Inc. filed a $1 billion counterclaim against an Indonesian businessman over ownership of shares in the company he manages.

The U.S. bank is seeking damages stemming from Benny Tjokrosaputro’s 15 trillion rupiah ($1.1 billion) lawsuit, which alleged that the firm improperly obtained a stake in property developer PT Hanson International. Goldman Sachs International, a London-based unit, is seeking the dismissal of Tjokrosaputro’s plea, saying it’s the legal owner of the Hanson shares, according to a copy of the counterclaim the bank filed in the South Jakarta District Court Tuesday.

“Goldman Sachs International is defending itself against his baseless legal action,” Lubis Ganie Surowidjojo, a law firm representing the bank, said in a statement after the claim was filed. Further hearing is set for Feb. 7.

Goldman said it purchased 425 million shares of Hanson from U.S. hedge fund Platinum Partners LLC through the Indonesian stock exchange in 2015. Confidence in trades made on the bourse could be eroded if Tjokrosaputro’s claims are upheld, the bank argued.

“All investors in Indonesia should be free to trade with confidence, without fear that legitimately executed trades will later be subject to spurious legal actions by unconnected third parties,” Goldman’s lawyers said.

Asset Freeze

The case comes amid a heightened focus on Indonesian financial markets after the government cut business ties with JPMorgan Chase & Co. for downgrading the nation’s equities, raising questions about the independence of research by securities firms.

Goldman Sachs International “has been forced to cease its securities-related business in Indonesia” because of the risk arising out of Tjokrosaputro’s request to freeze its assets, according to the copy of the counterclaim. PT Goldman Sachs Indonesia Securities, the bank’s local unit, isn’t a party to the lawsuit and continues to operate in the country.  

Tjokrosaputro didn’t respond to calls made to his mobile phone. The judge will hear his legal team’s response to the counterclaim on Feb. 7. Representatives of Platinum didn’t respond to an e-mailed request for comment outside of regular business hours.

New York-based Platinum filed for bankruptcy in October. The hedge fund’s co-founder was among seven people charged last month in what federal prosecutors said was a $1 billion fraud resembling a Ponzi scheme.

Panama Papers

In its counterclaim, Goldman said it “understands” that Platinum originally acquired the Hanson shares from Newrick Holdings Ltd.

Newrick is a British Virgin Islands-registered company in which Tjokrosaputro is a shareholder, according to the so-called Panama Papers -- a series of leaked documents that detail how law firm Mossack Fonseca worked with banks to create offshore shell companies for rich clients.

Goldman said it has never had business dealings with Tjokrosaputro, and has no relationship with or obligation to him. Any legal dispute of sale should be made by Tjokrosaputro and Platinum since they were the parties involved, it said.

JPMorgan last week upgraded its assessment of the Indonesian stock market, reversing its earlier bearish call that prompted the government to stop doing business with the U.S. bank. Indonesia has widened its campaign against negative research by ordering primary bond dealers to maintain relations with the government “based on professionalism, integrity and avoiding conflicts of interest.”

The case is 618/Pdt.G/2016/PN.Jkt.Sel

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