Japanese Casino Tycoon Ordered To Pay U.S Legal Firm $50m Fee
- US court asks Kazuo Okada to pay $50 million fee
- Fee must be paid to his former legal representative Bartlit Beck LLP
- Dispute occurred over lawsuit against Wynn Resorts
A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit ruled unanimously that Japanese casino tycoon and a billionaire Kazuo Okada should pay $50 million to law firm Bartlit Beck LLP for its services. Bartlit Beck had represented Okada against casino group Wynn Resorts Ltd in a 2012 dispute. After the case was settled in 2018, Okada reneged on the fee payment.
Okada Had No Intention to Attend 2019 Proceedings
The firm’s association with Okada goes back to a legal dispute with Wynn Resorts, popularly known as the Aruze USA dispute. In 2012, Okada was ejected from the Wynn Resorts’ board as the casino operator cited that the former was unsuitable and was a significant risk to its licences. Okada had held the largest stake in Wynn via Aruze USA Inc., a subsidiary of his company, Universal Entertainment Corp, which the group had voted to cancel. Wynn had also sent a promissory note to Okada for approximately $1.9 billion.
A legal battle followed, where Okada, represented by Bartlit Beck, appealed against the unilateral redemption of shares of several billion dollars by Wynn Resorts. The case was settled in 2018 when Wynn had agreed to pay Okada $2.4 billion as a settlement. However, upon settlement, Okada denied Bartlit Beck its agreed fee.
The dispute over attorney fees had been presented before a panel in 2018. Okada participated in the process but stopped just before a crucial hearing. The panel awarded Bartlit Beck their compensation by default. The firm then appealed to the federal court to confirm the award by the arbitration panel. The recent judgement favoured Bartlit Beck again and overruled Okada’s objection to the 2019 judgement on the grounds of unfairness because it did not consider his absence due to a medical emergency.
The court stated that Okada had no intention to participate in the arbitration after analysing pertinent email correspondence. The panel did not entertain Okada’s claims of being sick and his inability to attend the proceedings in Chicago, Illinois. Bartlit Beck now claims that, upon adding interest, Okada owes it around $63 million.
Wynn Paid $2.4 Billion as Settlement to End Aruze Dispute
Wynn had paid $1.94 billion principal amount of the redemption note issued to Okada and $463.6 million as an interest to end the legal dispute. Okada owned Universal Entertainment had claimed that it was entitled to $4.5 billion as reparations. Wynn’s statement did not only silence any further commotion over the settlement amount but also stated that Aruze would not assert any claims under the revised stockholders’ agreement.