Taking on Yahoo

Dallas, TX trial attorney Jeff Tillotson talks about a big case he worked on taking on Yahoo.

Contact Jeff Tillotson

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Phone: (214) 382-3040


Well Yahoo came up with a great idea to do a billion-dollar NCAA bracket picking contest. If you could pick all the winners in advance for the NCAA basketball tournament you would win a billion-dollar prize. So to make that happen Yahoo decided to buy insurance for a billion dollar prize. They came upon my client, a company called SCA Promotions that specializes in doing insurance for games and prizes and contests like this. And SCA turned around and got Warren Buffet involved who loves a big dollar bet.

So they negotiated and agreed on a contract but before Yahoo could go public with the contest someone beat them to the punch and came out with their own billion dollar contest. As it turns out, Yahoo believed that my client had not maintained the confidentiality of the program and allowed someone else to find out and beat them.

So Yahoo stiffed my client on their rather substantial fee for arranging the insurance, which was about $10 million. We had a lawsuit then over that in which Mr. Buffett and other well-known people were deposed like Jerry Filo the founder of Yahoo, Marissa Meyer who was then Yahoo’s celebrity CEO. And the issue was whether or not Yahoo owed us the fee for the contest.

At the end of the day, we were able to prevail, convince the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit to grant us judgement and Yahoo wound up writing a check for the full amount of the fee.

One interesting fact people ask is gosh, what are the odds of picking all of the winners of the NCAA tournament? Why do you need insurance for the billion dollars? And the odds are infinitesimal, almost impossible. Nonetheless, Yahoo felt that they couldn’t take on even a .000001 percent chance of having to pay someone a billion dollars and so went out and got insurance. My client who runs SCA who’s an international bridge champion and a master calculator of the odds knew in effect this was a sucker’s bet. And in fact, that year for that tournament no one made it out of the second round of the six-round tournament with a perfect bracket. In fact, the contest was over by day two of the NCAA tournament. So the odds were clearly with the insurance companies in that one.