Dentons wants out of Japanese billionaire's $50 million fee fight with law firm

Signage is seen outside of the law firm Dentons in Washington, D.C.
Signage is seen outside of the law firm Dentons in Washington, D.C., U.S., August 30, 2020. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly
  • Firm cites breakdown in attorney-client relationship with Kazuo Okada
  • 7th Circuit heard arguments in Okada's fee dispute with Bartlit Beck last month

(Reuters) - Global law firm Dentons on Friday 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.

Okada, the attorneys, and a Dentons spokesperson did not respond to requests for comment.

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.

The case is Bartlit Beck LLP v. Okada, U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, No. 1:19-cv-08508.

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

Read More:

Japanese billionaire squares off with Bartlit Beck in $50 mln fee fight

Billionaire ex-client must pay boutique Bartlit Beck $54 mln, court says

Wynn Resorts to pay $2.6 billion to settle lawsuit with Japan's Universal

Okada disputes Wynn right to redeem shares: lawsuit

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David Thomas reports on the business of law, including law firm strategy, hiring, mergers and litigation. He is based out of Chicago. He can be reached at and on Twitter @DaveThomas5150.