A recent Law360 story by David Thomas, “Dentons Wants Out of Japanese Billionaire’s $50M Fee Fight With Law Firm,” reports that Global law firm Dentons asked to withdraw from representing a Japanese pachinko billionaire in a $50 million legal fee fight with Chicago-based litigation firm Bartlit Beck. Dentons partners Alex Gude, Meaghan Klem Haller and Robert Richards told U.S. District Judge John Kness in Chicago that there was "an irretrievable breakdown" in their attorney relationship with client Kazuo Okada.
They did not say why the relationship soured but said Okada consents to the firm's withdrawal. They asked for deadlines in the case to be extended by two months so Okada can find new counsel. The Chicago-based 7th U.S. Court of Appeals last month appeared skeptical of Dentons' arguments that Okada shouldn't be forced to pay $50 million in legal fees to Bartlit Beck stemming from an earlier court fight with Wynn Resorts Ltd.
Okada hired Bartlit Beck to represent him in a lawsuit against Wynn Resorts after the U.S. casino giant forced Okada's Universal Entertainment Corp to sell back its stake in the company at a discount following an internal anti-corruption investigation. That case settled in March 2018 for $2.6 billion.
Bartlit Beck, a firm specializing in high-stakes litigation founded by ex-Kirkland & Ellis partners, took Okada to arbitration after he failed to pay $50 million it claimed he owed in legal fees. Okada withdrew from the arbitration proceedings days before a U.S.-based evidentiary hearing in October 2019, arguing his engagement agreement with the firm was invalid. Okada also said he was unable to travel due to his health. The arbitration panel awarded Bartlit Beck $50 million by default in 2019. Kness ordered Okada to pay Bartlit Beck in March, sparking the appeal. The 7th Circuit's decision is still pending.