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Casino Titan Okada Owes Counsel $54 Million in Wynn Resorts Case

Feb. 9, 2022, 5:13 PM

“Titan of the gambling industry” Kazuo Okada must pay more than $54 million in attorneys’ fees and interest to law firm Bartlit Beck LLP for representing him in a multi-billion-dollar lawsuit against Wynn Resorts and then-CEO Steve Wynn, after the Seventh Circuit rejected his challenge to an arbitration award.

The arbitration award will stand because Okada chose to absent himself from the proceeding, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit said Tuesday.

“Put plainly, Okada took himself out of the race,” the court said. “He cannot now complain that he was unfairly deprived of the chance to win.”

Okada, who had been a shareholder in casino operator Wynn Resorts, alleged that Wynn squeezed him out of the company over bogus fraud accusations. Wynn settled the litigation in March 2018, agreeing to pay Okada $2.6 billion.

But Okada “refused to pay the $50 million contingent fee” to Bartlit Beck, and the dispute between them went to arbitration as specified in their retention agreement, the appeals court said.

Okada participated in the arbitration for over a year, the court said. But less than 72 hours before the evidentiary hearing set by the panel, he informed the arbitrators that he wouldn’t be attending, the court said.

He later told the panel he’d be boycotting the hearing because he “rejected the validity of the engagement agreement,” the court said.

“Shortly thereafter, Okada announced that he was not authorizing his attorneys to participate in the arbitration, and he was canceling all witnesses, reservations, and services,” the court said.

As a result, the court said, “Okada was not denied any right to be heard when the panel proceeded without evidence that he never offered.”

The arbitration panel issued a final award of $54.6 million, which includes a $963,000 sanction for the costs and fees of the proceeding.

Judge Diane P. Wood wrote the opinion, joined by Judges Daniel A. Manion and Ilana D. Rovner.

The case was argued by Dentons Bingham Greenbaum LLP for Okada and Latham & Watkins LLP for Bartlit Beck.

The case is Bartlit Beck LLP v. Okada, 7th Cir., No. 21-1633, 2/8/22.

To contact the reporter on this story: Peter Hayes in Washington at PHayes@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Rob Tricchinelli at rtricchinelli@bloomberglaw.com; Nicholas Datlowe at ndatlowe@bloomberglaw.com