The Las Vegas Sands Corp., headed by online poker’s top enemy, Sheldon Adelson, has agreed to pay a $6.96 million criminal penalty to settle a federal case in which the government was investigating the company’s potential violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA).
The issue at hand stems back nearly seven years to 2010, when Steven Jacobs, who headed up Las Vegas Sands’ business in China for nine months, sued the company for unlawful termination. As Bloomberg.com worded it, Jacobs “accused Adelson of directing him to collect evidence on Macau government officials that could be used to ‘exert leverage’ on them to thwart regulation unfavorable to Sands casinos.”
The FCPA, rightfully, says it is illegal for companies and their executives to try to bribe foreign government officials. The one caveat here is that I believe Donald Trump is permitted to do this, especially now that he is President. Well, he doesn’t have anything to do with his businesses anymore, so it probably doesn’t matter. I mean, he told us he’s not going to be involved with his businesses, so I TOTALLY believe him. Not for a moment do I think Donald Trump has ever or will ever do anything shady with governments of other countries.
Jacobs claimed he tried to stop the illegal business practices and for that reason, he was canned.
A press release from the U.S. Department of Justice reads, in part:
According to admissions by Sands made in connection with the resolution, certain Sands executives knowingly and willfully failed to implement a system of internal accounting controls to adequately ensure the legitimacy of payments to a business consultant who assisted Sands in promoting its brand in Macao and the PRC, and to prevent the false recording of those payments in its books and records. Sands continued to make payments to the consultant despite warnings from its finance staff and an outside auditor that the business consultant had failed to account for portions of these funds. In addition, Sands terminated the finance department employee who raised concerns about the payments.
In total, from 2006 through 2009, Sands paid approximately $5.8 million to the business consultant without any discernable legitimate business purpose, it admitted.
Among those consultant payments was $60 million to help the company acquire a Chinese basketball team.
As part of the settlement, Las Vegas Sands admitted no guilt and was not charged with a crime. It sounds lame, but that’s how these things go.
In 2016, Las Vegas Sands reached a similar settlement on the same matter with the Securities and Exchange Commission, paying a $9 million fine. After scapegoating people like Jacobs and then getting found out by the U.S. government, the company tried to claim it was just ignorant, just a blind little sheep wandering into the woods (I don’t know what I just wrote).
“We were moving into unexplored territory and we wanted to do some unique things that were structured by attorneys and accountants in New York, Hong Kong and Beijing,” Sands Chief Operating Officer William Weidner said at the time. “I don’t know that you can blame the lawyers who structured the deals.”
“But I think that the fact that I wasn’t disciplined in this matter shows that we were operating in areas that hadn’t been considered by regulators.”