Large oil company accused of misrepresenting itself to secure a business partnership in Malaysia.
Seetha Kumarasamy, a one-time Malaysian legal director with the Norway-based firm Aker Solutions, has filed a lawsuit alleging the company made false representations regarding the ownership of one of its Malaysia units in order to secure licenses from Petronas. Kumarasamy said in a November court filing that Aker Solutions had pursued litigation against her in 2018 to “suppress evidence and prevent her from speaking out amid a corruption probe.” In issuing a gag order, Kumarasamy said she was prevented from talking to anti-corruption investigators about the company’s business relationship with Petronas.
An engineering firm, Aker Solutions has been in business since 1841 and was originally known as Aker Kværner until its name changed in 2008. The company provides services required to release energy from natural resources including oil, gas and wind. Aker is the region’s largest oil provider, maintaining a business agreement with the petroleum company Petronas that is at heart of Kumarasamy’s lawsuit.
Established in 1974 and owned by the Government of Malaysia, Petroliam Nasional Berhad (National Petroleum Limited), more commonly referred to as Petronas, operates the petroleum resources in Malaysia. It is one of the largest companies in the world and its duties are to maintain oil and gas resources in the country. Since its inception, Petronas has expanded its operations to 35 countries, including Norway.
Aker Solutions, in a late-December court filing, denied the allegations made and claimed Kumarasamy actually breached a confidentiality agreement in which she signed upon taking the director position. The issue of confidentially is at the center of both parties’ filings, and the court will have to decide whether a gag order was issued, or the original employment agreement was breached by Kumarasamy.
The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) is currently investigating Aker for claims of it making false statements regarding ownership of the Malaysian unit. Aker Solutions also said Petronas had carried out an audit on Aker Engineering Malaysia Sdn Bhd., the unit in question, after becoming aware of the claims made. The purpose of this audit was the verify licensing requirements.
The most recent suit against the firm states that Aker obtained a court order to seize Kumarasamy’s laptop and gain access to her email. The filing sates the firm’s “actions amounted to abuse of process and conspiracy,” and were made to silence her.
Responding to Kumarasamy, Aker said the suit it filed in 2018 “aimed at protecting its private information and accused Seetha of divulging confidential matters to third parties.” The company said it “briefed Petronas officials on the unit’s shareholding and management structure,” adding, “Aker Engineering’s license with Petronas was renewed in July 2018 for three years.”
The plaintiff is seeking damages to cover the cost of litigation as well as for defamation and mental and emotional distress. She has claimed she lost her “reputation and credibility” in the field. The amount of the damages has not been specified.