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Exclusive – Jordan Matthews: Steve Wynn allegedly used “improper influence” from China to lobby Donald Trump

Gambling Insider has spoken exclusively to Jordan Matthews, legal partner at Weinberg Gonser Frost LLP, about Steve Wynn's alleged attempts to influence former President Donald Trump and other Republicans on behalf of China in 2017– accusations that Wynn has since denied. Matthews is lead counsel in the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organisations (RICO) case against Wynn Resorts Founder Wynn.

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What can you tell us about the case against Steve Wynn so far? Can you bring us and our readers up to date?   

We represent Angelica Limcaco, who was the former manager of the salon at Wynn Las Vegas. Shortly after she was hired, she reported to human resources that one of her employees was allegedly raped and impregnated by Steve Wynn. This was the incident that led to a $7.5m settlement, which was the basis for the Wall Street Journal’s exposé that uncovered allegations of sexual assault. Our client was blacklisted and intimidated into silence after reporting the alleged rape. She was at the centre of events that triggered subsequent investigations by the Massachusetts Gaming Commission and Nevada Gaming Control Board.

Our client filed suit in Nevada District Court in September 2018, while Massachusetts and Nevada investigations were pending, and while Wynn Resorts’ licences on its $2.6bn casino project in Massachusetts were subject to revocation due to another investigation that was triggered by our client’s report. That case was dismissed in April 2019. However, in February 2020, during an appeal to the Ninth Circuit of the United States Court of Appeals, we discovered that Wynn Las Vegas’ lead counsel in our case had apparently been selected to take over the position of one of our judges in the Nevada District Court. All this while they were attempting to dismiss the case, and during the same time that they were striving to save the gaming licences in Massachusetts that were under review because of our client’s report.

We then discovered payment arrangements between Wynn Resorts and a member of the merit selection panel that elevated Wynn Las Vegas’ counsel to the position. After an extensive investigation that uncovered inquiries by the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Department of Justice, regarding payments that Wynn Resorts or affiliates had allegedly made to various public officials in connection with gaming licences, we filed a civil RICO case in the Central District of California alleging that Steve Wynn, Wynn Resorts and other parties had a history of using improper influence with public officials to conduct business. The case is currently on appeal in the Ninth Circuit and the allegations by the Department of Justice regarding Steve Wynn’s potential violation of the Foreign Agents Registration Act (“FARA”) directly coincide with the allegations we have made. 

Can you expand upon Wynn’s relationship with Sun Lijun?   

“Steve Wynn, Wynn Resorts and other parties had a history of using improper influence with public officials to conduct business... Steve Wynn’s potential violation of the Foreign Agents Registration Act (“FARA”) directly coincide with the allegations we have made” Jordan Matthews

On or around October 20, 2020, Elliott Broidy, a former RNC Deputy Finance Chair, pleaded guilty to violating FARA in connection with his alleged efforts to influence the prior Administration to extradite Guo Wengui and to have the DOJ drop its prosecution of certain parties tied to the 1MDB scandal. During this process, Broidy allegedly contacted Steve Wynn due to Wynn’s relationship with Donald Trump and considering Wynn’s prior position as the Chairman of the Republican Finance Committee. It was during this exchange that Wynn was allegedly in touch with Sun Lijun, the then-Vice Minister of the People's Republic of China Ministry of Public Security. The DOJ’s complaint against Steve Wynn alleges that he lobbied people in the Trump Administration, including then-President Trump, on at least three separate occasions. They also alleged that Steve Wynn mentioned his business interests in Macau on multiple phone calls with Sun Lijun and that Wynn was scheduled to renegotiate his licences to operate casinos in Macau in 2019, which was after his alleged exchanges with Sun Lijun and the prior Administration. 

What are the additional fillings made against Wynn?  

We filed a reply brief in the Ninth Circuit in connection with our opening brief that addressed certain legal questions related to our civil RICO claims. We also filed a request for judicial notice and asked the Ninth Circuit to consider (1) the DOJ’s press release related to its complaint against Steve Wynn for an alleged violation of FARA; and (2) a recent report confirming that Sun Lijun (who had allegedly been in direct contact with Steve Wynn regarding the extradition of Guo Wengui and Wynn’s business interests in Macau), had been accused of accepting $96.3m in bribes over nearly two decades; and has been accused of selling government positions. This is relevant to our allegations concerning the elevation of Wynn Las Vegas’ lead counsel to the position of a judge (a government position) in our case, and the alleged coinciding financial arrangement between Wynn Resorts and a member of the merit selection panel that selected Wynn Las Vegas’ lead counsel for this role. 

Can you see this case having any impact on Wynn Resorts, which is now operating out of Asia? 

Congress has passed various pieces of legislation to protect against improper influence between businesses and government officials and that includes the RICO statute, FARA and the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (the “FCPA”). It is relatively well-known that the People’s Republic of China adheres to different practices and the Chinese Government has a more integral role in business in China. I expect that Wynn Resorts, which is a public company, will continue to be under a microscope given that the majority of its revenue is derived from China. 

How can you see the case developing further  is there an end-point you can foresee/envisage? 

The issues have been presented to the Ninth Circuit. The court will need to decide whether it wants to consider sending the case back to the District Court in California for further proceedings, including a potential trial. 

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