Steve Wynn — the disgraced ex-CEO and former chairman of Wynn Resorts — is a problem that just won’t go away for the company, which is now trying to rebuild its tarnished reputation.
A company-initiated investigation into allegations by former female employees of sexual misconduct by their one-time boss has been littered with “misfires,” the Wall Street Journal reports.
The WSJ first reported allegations that Wynn had engaged in “a decades long pattern” of sexual misconduct and harassment towards female casino staff. This week, it discovered that investigators have told alleged victims that their names would be revealed to the Wynn Resorts board members in charge of the investigation.
It also found that many were told they would be interviewed on casino premises, rather than at a more confidential location, and that employees were not instructed on how to report any complaints until the probe had been underway for more than two months.
Shawn Cardinal, one woman who had alleged to the WSJ that the billionaire casino mogul had sexually harassed her, told the newspaper she did not trust the investigation and would not be taking part.
I don’t think there’s anything they could have done to convince me,” she said. “I felt like they are looking out for the company’s interest and the board of directors.”
In May, John “Jay” Hagenbuch, a Wynn Resorts director leading the special committee in charge of the internal investigation, stepped down after two advisory firms suggested shareholders should not vote to reelect him to the board at the company’s AGM.
One firm, Glass Lewis, said Hagenbuch’s role on the special committee was “questionable,” adding that he “shared culpability for misaligned compensation practices” — a reference to allegations that Wynn bought the silence of his victims, allegedly with the board’s knowledge.
The other, International Shareholder Services, said Hagenbuch was “part of a legacy board that oversaw material failures in governance and risk oversight.”
Wynn Resorts’ biggest shareholder, Elaine Wynn, had claimed Hagenbuch was a crony of her ex-husband and called for his resignation.
License on the Line
Wynn Resorts has since appointed three women to the board, one of whom, Patricia Mulroy, is now head of the special committee. She told WSJ the investigation was “rigorous, thorough, honest and independent” and that 114 people had been interviewed and thee million documents had been pored over.
The probe is focused on whether Wynn Resorts top brass knew about the alleged behavior of its chairman and whether there was a cover-up.
For Wynn Resorts, it’s imperative the investigation is conducted property and fairly. Gaming regulators in Massachusetts, where the company is putting the finishing touches to its Encore Boston Harbor resort, are conducting their own investigation into the allegations.
In the meantime, they want to see impeccable corporate governance, or Wynn Resort’s license could be in jeopardy.