Tougher sexual-harassment policies seen after Steve Wynn’s resignation

It’s been about a month since Steve Wynn stepped down as chairman and CEO of Wynn Resorts Ltd.

Since then, two lawsuits from unnamed accusers against Wynn for sexual harassment have reached Clark County District Court, and five derivative lawsuits have been filed by investors who say Wynn’s actions and the board’s lack of response devalued their holdings.

Investigations are continuing in Nevada, Massachusetts and Macau.

Nevada’s Gaming Control Board announced it will strengthen regulations on sexual harassment policies.

Meanwhile, Steve Wynn has said little, other than the allegations are the fault of his ex-wife, Elaine Wynn — and she has denied that.

Representatives for Steve Wynn did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Regulators working investigations

While the lawsuits probably won’t reach the courtroom for some time, regulators in Nevada and Massachusetts say they’re working in their respective states to investigate Wynn’s actions thoroughly, but they won’t offer any details, just as they don’t on any ongoing investigation.

“It’s ongoing,” state Gaming Control Board Chairwoman Becky Harris said Monday after a Gaming Policy Committee meeting in Las Vegas.

Harris wouldn’t discuss a timeline for completing the investigation or whether Wynn or any company executives would be called to testify in regulatory hearings.

Her counterpart at the Nevada Gaming Commission, Tony Alamo, also said Monday he couldn’t comment on the matter, since he and other commissioners would serve as adjudicators to any disciplinary matter brought by the Control Board.

Massachusetts update

In Massachusetts, where Wynn Resorts is building a resort near Boston Harbor on the Mystic River for $2.4 billion, regulators are taking a similar tack.

“This sort of confidentiality in active investigations is, as you know, a common practice,” Loretta Lillios, deputy director of the Investigations and Enforcement Bureau, said to the Massachusetts Gaming Commission at a Feb. 22 meeting. “It was the IEB’s practice with the initial investigations into the suitability of applicants for gaming licenses, and it’s important that the practice be maintained now.”

Lillios said it’s understandable that commissioners and the public are interested in the outcome of the investigation, since the project is a significant economic development driver, “but we all need to keep our eye on the greatest interest here, which is the public interest and the integrity of the process.”

Name change under consideration

An added twist in Massachusetts is the public call for Wynn’s name to be removed from the project and the building.

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker fueled discussion about removing the name last week when he said that option “should be on the table.”

A spokeswoman for the Massachusetts Gaming Commission said it would be a consideration.

“From the commission’s perspective, we are first required to complete our investigation and have a full accounting of the facts before we predetermine outcomes or speculate about next steps,” said spokeswoman Elaine Driscoll. “However, we fully appreciate and respect the concerns of the governor as well as the others who have expressed opinions on this serious matter.”

The Wynn Resorts board is conducting its own investigation but hasn’t discussed it publicly. The board has been named as well as Wynn in the five derivative lawsuits alleging a devaluation of share price.

Lawsuits have been filed on behalf of the Norfolk County Retirement System of Massachusetts, the New York State Common Retirement Fund, the Boynton Beach Municipal Firefighters Pension Trust Fund in Florida, the Firemen’s Retirement System of St. Louis and the Operating Engineers Construction Industry and Miscellaneous Pension Fund in Pennsylvania.

“The board of directors remained willfully blind to the sexual predation of (the company’s) former chief executive officer, Steve Wynn, and after this damaging information came to the board’s attention, the directors decided to align themselves with Steve Wynn — not the company, its shareholders or its employees,” a statement from the attorneys representing the Boynton Beach pension fund said after filing their lawsuit.

New complications

A separate court action last week further complicated legal proceedings.

Clark County District Court Judge Elizabeth Gonzales dismissed a motion from Steve Wynn to terminate an agreement with Elaine Wynn that would have allowed both of them to sell their stock shares.

Steve Wynn’s holding of more than 10 percent of the company stock produces another layer of scrutiny for regulators to examine, because he continues to be licensed as a beneficial owner of shares.

Nevada regulators already have taken a couple of actions related to the Wynn case.

Immediately after Wynn resigned, the Control Board enabled a link on its website so that the public could submit information on active investigations. In making the announcement, Harris said the link is for all investigations, not just the Wynn inquiry.

Last week, Harris announced the Control Board is preparing to consider additional regulations related to workplace sexual harassment. Workshop meetings are expected to be announced in the weeks ahead.

While the controversy involving Steve Wynn has swirled for weeks, company executives have been at work on damage control.

When Wynn stepped down Feb. 6, the board immediately hired Matt Maddox as the company’s new CEO.

In the last month, Maddox has conducted informational meetings with nearly 900 company leaders at Wynn Las Vegas and in Boston. A spokesman for the company on Monday said Maddox would complete meetings with all Wynn Las Vegas employees in the next two weeks.

Company initiatives

Maddox also launched four company initiatives:

— A women’s leadership forum to create and measure initiatives that will drive equal opportunity and the advancement of women.

— Six weeks’ paid parental leave following the birth, adoption or foster care addition of a child, including a one-time $250 gift to offset unexpected expenses for new parents.

— Ten new full scholarships, equally divided between men and women, to qualifying Wynn Las Vegas employees and family members.

— A paid-time-off program for hourly employees to participate in company community programs during work hours.

A company spokesman said Wynn Las Vegas has not detected any increase in cancellation rates since Steve Wynn’s resignation and allegations against him. Except for the Republican Governors Association conference scheduled in 2020, no conventions have been canceled at the property.

Contact Richard N. Velotta at rvelotta@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3893. Follow @RickVelotta on Twitter.

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