Universal Entertainment Corp. (6425)Chairman Kazuo Okada faces a U.S. criminal investigation related to his Philippine casino project, sending the gaming company’s shares down as much as 18 percent.
The U.S. asked to intervene in a lawsuit brought byWynn Resorts Ltd. (WYNN), which accused Okada of making improper payments to Philippine gaming regulators. TheJustice Departmentsaid in an April 8 filing in state court in Las Vegas that it doesn’t want the civil case to disrupt its criminal investigation into the same underlying allegations.
Kazuo Okada, former director of Wynn Resorts Ltd. Photographer: Jerome Favre/Bloomberg
Okada has pushed to expand in thePhilippineswhere the government is setting up a new casino center that would compete with Macau, where Wynn Resorts gets most of its revenue. Okada, who became a billionaire selling machines for Japanese pachinko parlors, won one of four provisional gaming licenses awarded for the Manila hub in 2008. New resorts could help the Southeast Asian nation’s gaming market expand five fold to $10 billion by 2017, its chief regulator estimates.
Wynn Resorts last year forcibly redeemed Okada’s 20 percent stake in the Las Vegas-based company and sued him for breach of fiduciary duty. Okada, who resigned as a director of Wynn Resorts in February, was being probed by the U.S.Federal Bureauof Investigation regarding his Philippine casino permit, the Asian country’s gambling authority said in January.
Wynn Resorts gets more than 71 percent of its annual revenue from Macau, the world’s largest gambling hub.
The possible violations of the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act by a controlling shareholder could threaten Wynn Resorts’ gaming license inNevadaand other jurisdictions, the casino operator has said in court filings.
The Justice Department said in its filing that it contacted lawyers for Okada and Wynn Resorts about its request to halt evidence gathering related to Okada’s activities in the Philippines.
Okada’s lawyers have said they would probably oppose the request “in whole or in part,” according to the filing. Wynn Resorts won’t oppose its request, the Justice Department said.
The U.S. request to stay the case with regard to any overlap with its investigation is scheduled to be considered April 16 by Clark County District Judge Elizabeth Gonzalez, according to the court’s docket.
Universal Entertainment, after falling as much as 18 percent to 1,620 yen, was trading at 1,681 yen at 1:28 p.m. inTokyotoday.
The company has been denying the wrongdoing, “so it hadn’t been fully reflected in the stock price,”Kenichi Hirano, general manager at Tachibana Securities Co. in Tokyo, said in a phone interview. The report on the investigation caused the stock to plummet, he said.
Michael Weaver, a spokesman for Wynn Resorts, and Michael Passman, a Justice Department spokesman, declined to comment on the government’s filing.
Nobuyuki Horiuchi, a Universal Entertainment spokesman, declined to comment on the filing, saying the company hasn’t yet confirmed facts. Eric Andrus, an outside spokesman for Okada with RLM Finsbury inNew York, also declined to comment on the investigation.
The FCPA bars companies or individuals regulated or based in the U.S. from paying bribes to foreign officials to win business. Foreign companies and nationals also can be prosecuted if their corrupt acts were committed in the U.S.
$40 Million Payments
Universal Entertainment, based in Tokyo, said Feb. 5 that a third-party committee was investigating payments made through its U.S. unit, Aruze USA Inc., in the Philippines. The committee was looking at $40 million in payments, according to the statement.
The FBI is examining Okada’s pursuit of his Philippine gaming license, any tax benefits he received and the flow of funds involved, Cristino Naguiat, chairman and chief executive of the Philippine Amusement & Gaming Corp., the gambling authority, said in January.
The case is Wynn Resorts v. Okada, A-12-656710-B, Clark County District Court, Nevada (Las Vegas).
Back when Microsoft was still Microsoft, it wouldn’t announce to its competitors, “We want to crush you.” Instead, its soothingly stated goal was to “embrace and extend” whatever the other guy was doing.
That’s whatFacebook (FB)is trying with Facebook Home, the new software it’s launching this week for mobile phones running archrival Google’s Android operating system. Instead of taking on Google directly, Home aims to co-opt Android by covering it with a layer of Facebook content and services.
Facebook Home is a sort of mega-app that provides its own user interface atop Android. Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg
April 10 (Bloomberg) -- Bloomberg's Rich Jaroslovsky reviews Facebook Inc.'s Facebook Home, the new software that creates a homepage for mobile devices running Google Inc.'s Android operating system. (Rich Jaroslovsky is a Bloomberg News columnist. The opinions expressed are his own. Source: Bloomberg)
I’ve been using the new software since last week and find it useful and attractive. At the same time, it’s somewhat overbearing in controlling how you interact with your phone.
Facebook Home is a sort of mega-app that provides its own user interface atop Android. For the time being, it has no advertising, but the company made clear that ads will be part of its future.
The software will be available for free from theGoogle Playstore April 12 and will also come pre-installed on some phones. I tested it on the appropriately namedHTC (2498)First, which goes on sale in the U.S., also April 12, for $100 fromAT&T. (T)
The Home experience starts with -- and in many ways is built around -- a feature called Cover Flow that commandeers the home screen.
Instead of the usual Android interface, or the customized versions that manufacturers likeSamsung (005930)install, you see a scroll of photos from your friends, with their latest status updates superimposed.
I enjoyed being able to quickly flip through a series of updates, registering Facebook “likes” simply by double-tapping the screen. Once in a while, I’d open a comment box to type out a quick message without the need to launch a separate Facebook app.
Meanwhile, I received a stream of notifications as friends registered likes of my posts or shared new links and photos.
This people-centric approach resembles the “live tiles” Microsoft features in its Windows Phone operating system. But on Windows Phones your friends’ activities are just one element of the home screen; on Facebook Home, they’re the only element.
Where are all the Android apps?
They’re still there. But to get at them, you first have to tap your own picture on the home screen, then select Home’s app launcher. Not surprisingly, Facebook gets prominent placement here too, though you can add your own favorites as well.
While you can still summon a fuller display of apps with a finger swipe, the net effect is to diminish their importance by making them less visible and accessible. Facebook Home isn’t about running apps; it’s about running Facebook.
Even when you’re running another app, Facebook is never far away, thanks to an oddly named feature called Chat Heads. These are text-message alerts that you can read and respond to without leaving whatever app you happen to be using at the moment.
At least on my test phone, Facebook didn’t completely smother Android. For example, I still received pop-up notifications from myGoogle (GOOG)Now app about traffic conditions between my home and office.
But it turns out I could only see those alerts because Home had been pre-installed on the phone I was using. Facebook says users who install it themselves on one of the phones that will support it -- Samsung’s Galaxy S3, S4 and Note 2, and HTC’s One, One X and One X+ -- will only receive Facebook notifications, not alerts from other apps.
In the end, Facebook addicts will probably love Home for the same reason that non-Facebook addicts won’t: its single- minded focus on interacting not with apps but with friends.
Whether and how much you’ll like it will be directly proportional to your level of engagement with your social network.
(Rich Jaroslovskyis a Bloomberg News columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.)