STEVE WYNN is suing his former company, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission, and the commission’s chief investigator, seeking to block the upcoming release of a report on his sexual misconduct that allegedly relies on improperly obtained privileged information.
The lawsuit, filed on Wednesday in Las Vegas and publicly disclosed at a Gaming Commission hearing Thursday, claims Wynn Resorts has turned over documents and information to Gaming Commission investigators that were protected by attorney-client privilege and were only in the possession of Wynn Resorts because it had engaged in a joint defense with Steve Wynn regarding previous litigation.
“Mr. Wynn has never authorized Wynn Resorts to share such materials with Mass Gaming or any other third party,” the lawsuit said.
It’s unclear what information is contained in the materials and whether that information is important to the Gaming Commission’s investigation. The agency’s response to the lawsuit suggested the information is vital. Commission officials said they had retained legal counsel in Nevada and would not release their report until the legal dispute there is resolved. The commission’s report on the suitability of Wynn Resorts to retain its casino license in Massachusetts had been scheduled for release in December.
“This development is not surprising as it is consistent with his [Wynn’s] established litigious tendencies,” the agency said in a statement.
According to Wynn’s lawsuit, he and Wynn Resorts had entered into verbal, not written, joint defense agreements in connection with litigation on a number of issues. The lawsuit claims the agreements allowed the parties to wage their joint defense sharing information that would normally be protected by attorney-client privilege, with the caveat that the information would not be shared with others without permission. The lawsuit claims Wynn Resorts “improperly disclosed Mr. Wynn’s protected communications at the unrelenting behest of Mass Gaming officials.”
Donald Campbell, an attorney that represented Steve Wynn in these matters, notified the Gaming Commission and Wynn Resorts in mid-October of his concerns. In a letter to the company, Campbell said he had been retained to represent Steve Wynn in connection with three legal matters, one involving a former shareholder, one involving Wynn’s ex-wife, and one that was blacked out. A later reference to the third legal matter was again blacked out.
The Gaming Commission launched its investigation after the Wall Street Journal reported on several instances of sexual misconduct by Steve Wynn over many years. Karen Wells, head of the Gaming Commission’s investigations bureau, told the commission earlier this year that she had confirmed one key element of the story – that Steve Wynn had paid a private $7.5 million settlement to a manicurist to resolve a sexual harassment allegation. That payment had not been disclosed during the original casino licensing process.
Materials attached to the lawsuit detail repeated communications between lawyers for Steve Wynn and officials at the Gaming Commission and Wynn Resorts surrounding the issue of privileged communications. The most recent series of communications indicated Steve Wynn’s attorney wanted to read the report before its public release to make sure it doesn’t use any privileged materials or contain any false and defamatory material. His attorneys also asked to participate in the Gaming Commission’s public hearing on the report.
Last Thursday, an attorney representing the Gaming Commission sent a letter to Steve Wynn’s attorney dismissing his demand, saying he was not convinced that a joint defense agreement applies to documents in the agency’s possession. He also said he was not convinced that Campbell was acting as Wynn’s personal attorney, in part because that arrangement was not documented anywhere and at least some of Campbell’s fees were paid by Wynn Resorts.