On Thursday, November 7, Professor Jerome Cohen sat down with his longtime friend and former student, Mr. Ko-Yung Tung, Senior Counsel at Morrison & Foerster and former Vice President and General Counsel of the World Bank and Secretary General of the International Centre for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID), to discuss Mr. Tung’s background and international lawyering in both the public and private sectors.
In an engaging hour of conversation rife with wit and reminiscences, Mr. Tung related many stories, including his decision to pursue law rather than his original course of study, physics, after meeting Jerome Cohen. “No one else has been more important in my life than my mother and Professor Jerome A. Cohen,” Mr. Tung declared, before elaborating on Professor Cohen’s advice given throughout the years on matters that have ranged from housing at Harvard University to his first position at a large international law firm.
Having succeeded in gaining a couple of huge Japanese clients as a young associate at Debevoise & Plimpton, Mr. Tung decided to start his own boutique law firm specializing in international corporate transactions, which he ran for fourteen years before merging his firm into O’Melveny & Myers. After 15 years there, he was appointed as Vice President and General Counsel at the World Bank. At the World Bank, Mr. Tung initiated a robust anti-corruption program, a shift from policies previously in place that did not emphasize rule of law-related dimensions.
After his term of service with the World Bank and ICSID, Mr. Tung later went on to join Morrison & Foerster as Senior Counsel. He has held several high-level appointments, including as a member of the U.S. Presidential Commission on United States Pacific Trade and Investment Policy, Chairman of the Board of Governors of the East-West Center, and The Trilateral Commission. He currently serves as a board member of non-governmental organizations and academic centers, including Human Rights Watch-Asia, Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, The London Forum of Economic Law and Development at the University of London, Boston University Center for Finance, Law and Policy, U.S.-China Education Fund, and Chinese Business Lawyers Association. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the American Society of International Law, International Bar Association and the Bar of the City of New York, the Asia Society, and the Japan Society.
In addition to his multifaceted roles in public and private law, Mr. Tung teaches a course on law and economic development at Yale Law School, and is a frequent speaker at conferences and seminars on international law and business as well as global economic issues. He has published many articles on those subjects; his latest is a chapter entitled “Foreign Investors vs Sovereign States: Towards a Global Framework, BIT by BIT” in International Economic Law and National Autonomy (Cambridge University Press, 2010).
At the end of the conversation, Mr. Tung imparted some of his own advice to those interested in cross-country transactions and arbitration: master your subject matter, gain the 360 degrees of respect from not only bosses and clients, but also peers and subordinates and even adversaries, and appreciate the diversity of peoples and culture, as well.
Mr. Tung was born in Beijing, China, and raised in Tokyo, Japan. He received his education at Phillips Academy, Andover, Massachusetts, Harvard College (physics, magna cum laude, 1970), Harvard Law School (J.D., 1973), and University of Tokyo, Faculty of Law (research fellow 1971-72).