Law firm Bartlit Beck wins $50 million appeal against Japanese billionaire

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Universal Entertainment Corp founder Kazuo Okada attends a news conference at the Tokyo District Court in Tokyo, Japan September 14, 2017. REUTERS/Issei Kato

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  • 7th Circuit Panel Supports 2019 Default Arbitration Panel Decision Against Kazuo Okada
  • Okada had stopped participating in the arbitration process, calling it unfair

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(Reuters) – A federal appeals court said on Tuesday a Japanese pachinko billionaire could not escape a 2019 arbitrator’s ruling forcing him to pay $50 million in legal fees to the Bartlit law firm Beck over an earlier court battle with Wynn Resorts Ltd.

The 7th United States Circuit Court of Appeals, in its unanimous three-judge decision, declined to overturn the sentence based on Kazuo Okada’s claims that he was unable to present his case to the court. panel of arbitrators.

Okada had participated in arbitration for more than a year, but stopped short of an evidentiary hearing, and the arbitration panel awarded Chicago-based litigation boutique Bartlit Beck $50 million in default. .

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“Clearly, Okada has retired from the race. He can no longer complain that he was unfairly deprived of the chance to win,” wrote circuit judge Diane Wood, joined by circuit judges Daniel Manion and Ilana Diamond Rovner.

Okada now owes Bartlit Beck more than $63 million after accrued interest, according to the firm.

A lawyer who had argued for Okada, Alex Gude of Dentons Bingham Greenebaum, did not immediately return a message seeking comment. Dentons, after the argument, decided to withdraw his depiction of Okada citing “irrecoverable breakdown”. A message left for Okada, who is now representing himself, was not immediately returned on Tuesday.

Bartlit’s partner, Joshua Ackerman, told Reuters on Tuesday the company was happy with the appeals court’s decision. “We plan to prosecute him by all means available to us until he pays the costs,” Ackerman said.

Bartlit Beck represented Okada in a lawsuit against US casino giant Wynn Resorts after it forced Okada’s Universal Entertainment Corp to sell its stake in the company at a discount following an internal anti-corruption investigation.

The case settled in Okada’s favor in 2018 for $2.6 billion. Bartlit Beck said Okada then refused to pay the $50 million conditional fee in the recognizance agreement.

Okada argued that the arbitration panel’s decision to move forward without him was unreasonable and unfair. Among other reasons, he claimed he was unable to travel due to a medical emergency.

The 7th Circuit panel said the relevant email communication “makes it clear that, ill or not, Okada was not going to participate in the hearing.”

The case is Bartlit Beck LLP v. Okada, United States Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit, No. 21-1633

For Bartlit Beck: Joshua Ackerman and Adam Hoeflich of Bartlit Beck; and Sean Berkowitz of Latham & Watkins

For Okada: pro se

Read more:

Law firm wants to add discovery tab to billionaire’s $63m legal bill

Japanese billionaire takes on Bartlit Beck in $50 million fight

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