Maddox’s explanations doubted by some commissioners
Wynn CEO says he ordered surveillance of rumor-monger last year
WYNN RESORTS CEO Matt Maddox said on Thursday that he wasn’t aware of the way Steve Wynn and some of the company’s employees had bought the silence of women who alleged sexual harassment or worse, but some members of the Massachusetts Gaming Commission didn’t seem to buy it.
“Can you see why to some people sitting on this commission it may look like only taking action when you get caught and you’re forced to take action?” asked Eileen O’Brien, a former state prosecutor.
Maddox said he didn’t view his actions that way, although he acknowledged not following up on some information related to settlements negotiated by Steve Wynn. For example, he said he learned of a $700,000 settlement in 2008, but didn’t dig into the details when he was told it was a payout to a longtime employee who had recent “mental issues.”
In an adjudicatory hearing that began Tuesday and continued on Thursday, the Gaming Commission is trying to sort through how Wynn Resorts handled the alleged sexual misconduct of Steve Wynn and how it will handle similar events in the future. The goal is to determine whether Wynn Resorts should be allowed to retain its Massachusetts casino license and open the $2.6 billion Encore Boston Harbor casino in June as planned.
“There were decisions made by Mr. Wynn that siloed certain individuals from having knowledge of more than one of the allegations,” Whittemore said.
As he rose through the ranks of the company – and caught glimpses but not the full picture of allegations of sexual impropriety against his boss – Maddox never undertook any real investigation into those charges. However, months after succeeding Steve Wynn as CEO, Maddox authorized an undercover surveillance operation at a salon where a former Wynn employee was widely known to be “saying a lot of really negative things about Wynn and that Wynn was going to go down.”
Wynn’s head of security suggested sending someone to the salon to listen in on the conversations, and Maddox agreed to the covert plan.
“I said, ‘As long as it’s above board, sure,’” Maddox told gaming regulators Thursday. “I thought about it for 30 seconds and didn’t think about it again until I had the report.”
Once Maddox saw the report, he felt uncomfortable about it, worried that it invaded people’s privacy, and he decided to send it to a special committee set up by the board of directors and Massachusetts gaming regulators, he said. He was told not to engage in any more investigations of that nature.
“I found that disturbing,” said commissioner Gayle Cameron, a former New Jersey state police official. “That this would be authorized without a predicate crime because of rumors and innuendo, and then the fact that employees were surveilled.”
Cameron also suggested that the surveillance operation extended beyond listening in at the salon, and said Maddox appeared aware of only a portion of it.
“I would be surprised to hear that,” Maddox replied.
“I’m struggling with a pattern of information that comes forward that you’re just not aware of,” Cameron said.
In his testimony, Maddox tried to make the case that a new day has dawned at the international casino company, one that emphasizes compliance with company sexual harassment employees. Under the new structure, sexual harassment complaints go to human resources, the general counsel, and an outside law firm, Maddox said.
“There is a much more robust process in place,” Maddox said. “I understand the process because I’ve been involved in changing it.”
However, right after that statement, Cameron called his knowledge into question, noting that there are eight areas in which Wynn’s sexual harassment policy has been enhanced and asking Maddox to name two or three.
“I’d have to go back and look at the exhibits,” said Maddox, who didn’t name a single enhancement from memory.
Under questioning by O’Brien, Maddox also acknowledged that he was unaware of a new protocol for communicating information of concern when he met with investigators in July 2018, more than two years after the protocol had been adopted.
“I can see how that doesn’t look good,” Maddox said.
Loretta Lillios, the chief enforcement counsel for the Gaming Commission’s Investigations and Enforcement Bureau, asked Maddox a question that gets to the heart of why Wynn Resorts officials have been called back before the commission for a review of whether they meet suitability requirements.“How can we be sure, given the evidence revealed in the investigation, that under your leadership there would be more robust compliance and transparency?” Lillios asked.
Maddox answered the question by urging commissioners to talk to people who have known him throughout his life and from his work in the casino industry. “I think you would hear that Matt Maddox has been an extraordinary leader,” he said, referring to himself in the third person.