Alleged lobby to protect Macau operations

Steve Wynn asks US court to dismiss DOJ suit that seeks to force his registration as a Chinese agent over 2017 actions

Reading time 2:24 min

Former Wynn Resorts CEO Stephen Wynn urged a judge to dismiss the U.S. Justice Department's civil lawsuit seeking to compel him to register as a Chinese agent, saying he wasn’t lobbying when he passed on a message in 2017 —when he was still in his role at the casino operator, which runs gaming halls in Macau—. The lawsuit filed in May alleges the casino mogul lobbied President Donald Trump on behalf of the Chinese government, which sought the return of an exiled businessman. 

In a court filing Monday, Mr. Wynn's lawyers argued that the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) doesn’t apply to Wynn telling the Trump administration that China wanted the US to extradite Guo Wengui, a wealthy exile who criticized China’s government. Wynn had no agreement with the Chinese official, wasn’t paid, and was transparent about the source of the request, according to the document, Bloomberg reports. The government has until August 15 to respond to Wynn's motion.

In the complaint filed in May in federal court in Washington D.C., the Justice Department said Wynn engaged in those efforts at the request of Sun Lijun, a former Vice Minister of China’s ministry of public security, and did so to protect the operations of casinos in Macau owned by Wynn’s company. The government in Macau had restricted the number of gaming tables and machines that could be operated at Wynn’s casino, the complaint alleges, and he was scheduled to renegotiate licenses to operate casinos in 2019. 

The action marked “the first affirmative civil lawsuit under FARA in more than three decades,” Assistant Attorney General Matthew G. Olsen of the Justice Department’s National Security Division said in May. The law, which has been invoked in criminal cases, requires individuals to register with the U.S. attorney general before lobbying on behalf of foreign nationals. 

The DoJ said it had advised Wynn repeatedly over the last four years to register under FARA, and it is suing now because Wynn refused to do so.

Wynn claimed that he was acting "in the interests of the United States by bringing this opportunity to President Trump, not as an agent of the Chinese official or government," CNN reports.

In the filing Monday, Wynn said there were three main reasons that the case against him should be dismissed. First, even if the Justice Department's allegations about his conduct were true, his obligation to file under FARA extinguished as soon as the alleged conduct stopped several years ago. Also, he argued that compelling him to register under FARA would violate his constitutional rights. And the last argument is that the conduct alleged in the DOJ complaint does not meet the legal standards for triggering the law's registration requirement.

Wynn said that "the Complaint alleges only that Wynn was asked by Sun to deliver a message from the PRC to the Administration, and that Wynn did so while expressly disclosing that the message was coming from the PRC." With the motion, Wynn filed a 2018 letter his attorneys sent to the DoJ explaining why they did not think he was required to register under the law.

Steve Wynn stepped down from Wynn Resorts in 2018 after multiple women accused him of sexual misconduct. In March, the Nevada Supreme Court said a lower court lacked jurisdictional standing when it ruled in 2020 that state gaming regulators don’t have jurisdiction over Wynn after he left Wynn Resorts on his own.

The seven justices unanimously ruled that Clark County District Court Judge Adriana Escobar should not have decided the matter because the Nevada Gaming Commission had not yet ruled on a 2019 request by the Gaming Control Board to have Wynn declared formally unsuitable to hold a gaming license. 

Leave your comment
Subscribe to our newsletter
Enter your email to receive the latest news
By entering your email address, you agree to Yogonet's Condiciones de uso and Privacy Policies. You understand Yogonet may use your address to send updates and marketing emails. Use the Unsubscribe link in those emails to opt out at any time.