Las Vegas Sands settles investigation with US$9 million

The company was accused of violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act with its operations in Macau.

The major American casino brand has been probed by the US Securities Exchange Commission –SEC– for the last five years.

US.- Las Vegas Sands resolved the anti-bribery investigation with a civil settlement of US$9 million held yesterday. The casino operator and investor world-wide faced a five-year probe by American authorities to prove whether they had operated illegally in Macau, China. The investigation took place after Las Vegas Sands failed to authorise or document over US$62 million of payments to a consultant –known as “beard”– who helped to close deals in Macau in between 2006 and 2011.

The millionaire penalty could be covered with just two days of Las Vegas Sands’ profit. As a part of the federal settlement, the brand must hire an independent compliance consultant for the next two years at least. After the civic agreement, Sheldon Adelson –owner of the company– assured that the brand was pleased to end the investigation, although he did not refer to any wrongdoing. However, Adelson admitted in the statement that the Securities Exchange Commission liberated the company’s reputation of corruption accusations and bribery rumors.

Leader of SEC enforcement division, Andrew Ceresney, also commented about the legal arrangement and added that publicly traded companies like Las Vegas Sands “must have appropriate financial controls in place to ensure that expenses are paid for bona fide services.” The SEC published the results of the probe that show “beard” consultant helped the company to buy a team in the Chinese Basketball Association –which gaming brands were banned to own it– and part of a Beijing complex despite China had previously prohibited casino operations. Furthermore, Las Vegas Sands did not have a properly documentation about transactions in Macau.

Las Vegas Sands’ final answer was that the investigation had been stemmed from a breach-of-contract lawsuit by Steve Jacobs, former Sands China unit’s head, although it could not find any illegal actions by the company. The American corporation defended its clear position by saying the SEC found the same information than the audit committee. Its owner, Adelson –82 years old– was neither charged nor accused of wrongdoing.