Straight out of Hollywood
(The Philippine Star) - February 14, 2018 - 12:00am

Their story has all the elements of a Hollywood movie blockbuster.

First, Japanese billionaire Kazuo Okada saves casino magnate Steve Wynn when the former invested $260 million in Wynn Resorts in 2003 after Wynn was ousted from Mirage Resorts which he founded following a hostile takeover by MGM of Mirage in 2000.

Okada and Wynn became the best of friends, worked together, and became the key players in the casino industry.

In 2012, Wynn ousted Okada from the board of Wynn Macau casino for unacceptable conduct involving alleged corruption in the Philippines. Okada was ousted as vice chairman and his 20 percent stake forcibly redeemed by Wynn Resorts.

That event led to a string of lawsuits between the two moguls until the present.

And then recently, Wynn bowed out as chairman and CEO of Wynn Resorts for alleged sexual misconduct. The University of Iowa is removing Wynn’s name from a vision research institute which he helped finance, while the University of Pennsylvania is revoking Wynn’s honorary degree and similarly removing his name from a scholarship fund and plaza.

Okada, meanwhile, is also in trouble for alleged business fraud and mismanagement. He has been removed as board chairman, director, and CEO of Tiger Resort Leisure and Entertainment (TRLEI), according to Okada Manila. The move was prompted by recent actions at parent firm Universal Entertainment Corp. (UEC) which owns 100 percent of Tiger Resort Asia Ltd. which, in turn, also wholly owns TRLEI.

TRLEI is the developer, owner, and operator of Okada Manila.

UEC announced that an internal investigation revealed $2 million in improper transfer of company funds by Kazuo. This is on top of an earlier claim of a $17 million loan that benefitted him.

To save the company, Tomihiro Okada (son of Kazuo), who holds 43 percent of Okada Holdings Ltd. and Hiromi Okada (daughter of Kazuo) who holds nine percent banded together, exercised their right to vote on May 12, 2017, and dismissed their father from Okada Holdings.

The older Okada’s dismissal from the holding company set in motion his ouster from the other companies. In the same month, UEC issued a suspension order to Kazuo. The following month, Kazuo was dismissed as director of Tiger Resort Asia Ltd. On June 29, 2017, UEC dismissed Kazuo as director.

The company and family members of Kazuo took a stand to make things right and their move seems to have been welcomed by the market as shown by UEC share prices doubling since his ouster.

Meanwhile, Kazuo has to face various charges in Japan, Hong Kong, South Korea, and the Philippines.

Okada is facing two complaints for estafa filed by TRLEI, owner and operator of Okada Manila, before the Parañaque City Prosecutors’ Office. TRLEI, a subsidiary of UEC, also filed a perjury case against Okada before the Makati City Prosecutors’ Office.

The first estafa case stemmed from the alleged illegal disbursement of over $3 million by Okada supposedly as his consultancy fees and salaries as TRLEI CEO from April-May 2017.

Meanwhile, the second case involves the supply of light emitting diode (LED) fixtures to Okada Manila by Okada’s personal company, Aruze Philippines Manufacturing Inc. (APMI). The LED fixtures were later found to be defective and APMI turned out not to be authorized to engage in the manufacture of lighting materials, contrary to its claim.

The Hong Kong lawsuit against Okada involves a loan of HK $135 million made out by UEC’s Hong Kong subsidiary which he allegedly used to pay for artworks. UEC has yet to recover HK $120.5 million of the Okada-sponsored loan.

Pro-labor, anti-business

Being pro-labor does not mean that one should be anti-business.

Instead of helping companies get back on their feet so that the workers get to keep their jobs, the abuzz among coffeeshop habitues is that a certain group at the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) has been agitating labor groups to force distressed companies to pay more, squeezing blood out of turnips so to speak.

Garments firm Faremo International, which recently closed down, was reportedly forced to pay P36.6 million to its 748 workers and another P2.5 million so it could be allowed to end its business here. Faremo, a subsidiary of Hansoll Textile Ltd. of Korea, has moved back to Korea.

Carina Apparel already successfully conducted its bargaining agreement with its union, but when a particular DOLE official attended, the latter allegedly agitated the union to ask for more, forcing the firm to close down.

A DOLE official allegedly attending a CBA meeting of Toyota Motors asked the company to offer a substantial amount that the union could ponder upon.

In another case, a large multinational firm was conducting its CBA negotiations when the DOLE official joined the protesting workers with raised fists.

A large manufacturing company in Mindanao was ordered to hire 10,000 workers from its five manpower service cooperatives, and for the latter to leave.

The business community is now beginning to think that this DOLE undersecretary, who should have shown impartiality if not mediate, is anti-business, and anti-foreign companies.

He is using the President’s order to stop contractualization, but it should be remembered that what is prohibited by law is labor-only contracting and not job contracting. In many cases, he is requiring firms to hire workers supplied by legitimate job contractors when it is the contractor who should make the workers his regular employees.

There are those who are wondering whether this particular official is just a hard-core leftist in government or is benefitting in other ways when he scares legitimately closing companies into paying workers more than what is provided for in the law or cases will be filed and their equipment or remittance of investments held.

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