Sexual harassment and sexual assault are, obviously, extremely serious matters. With the long overdue advent of the #MeToo movement, what used to be marginally acceptable is (or should be) totally unacceptable. Nevertheless, not only are some people of power still sexually harassing, they are sometimes enabled by the corporate structures around them. Questioning when sexual abuse is a corporate decision.
Wynn Resorts Ltd – When Sexual Abuse is a Corporate Decision
There’s little doubt that Steve Wynn, the chairman, and CEO of Wynn Resorts is a financial and corporate force. He built Wynn Resorts into a multi-billion-dollar empire. However, on a personal basis, he is covered in accusations of repeated, sexual misconduct. He has called the reports preposterous, but his misconduct is having serious, corporate-wide repercussions.
Wynn’s unethical activities are severely impacting one property in particular, a $2.6 billion casino near Boston, Massachusetts. The gaming commission of that state has just held a three-day meeting and has released a detailed report on whether Wynn Resorts should be permitted to have a permit to open the casino in June 2019.
Choices, of course, have consequences. In January 2018, there were numerous allegations reported in the media that Wynn was a serial, sexual abuser. The gaming commission picked up on the articles and found that not only were Wynn’s activities grounds for a detailed investigation but that it was likely he was surrounded by a group of executives who protected and hid the sexual abuse from the public.
In the report that was issued, it was concluded: “Their efforts at secrecy made it exceedingly difficult, if not impossible, for gaming regulators to detect this potentially derogatory information through typical regulatory means.”
The report pulled no punches in its accusations that the executives and workers of Wynn’s inner circle were culpable in enabling the 67-year-old Wynn to repeatedly harass and abuse women for decades.
In other words, for years executives of the company enabled Wynn’s unethical behavior.
Placating the Commission
Wynn has left the company he founded and sold a nearly 12 percent stake in the operations. Wynn resorts stated that he left without a severance package and that they have since terminated any executive or employee who allegedly helped with the cover-up.
Wynn Resorts said in a Tuesday statement it arranged for Wynn to leave without severance, cooperated with the Massachusetts inquiry and has parted ways with any employee who did not report Wynn’s decade’s long behaviors. Even if the executives were terminated and penalized as was reported, they have all left as extremely wealthy individuals, Wynn especially.
In February of 2018, the Las Vegas Gaming Commission imposed $20 million in penalties on Wynn Resorts for the former CEO’s misconduct. Nevertheless, we should not forget that to a multi-billion-dollar enterprise that takes in huge amounts of money, a fine of that size is barely more than a parking ticket. Wynn Resorts is a publicly traded company, their stock has been doing just fine, and while the organization is obviously concerned about the license of the 630-room casino, it is impossible to picture Massachusetts demolishing the site. There may be a restructuring or even a renaming, but Steve Wynn’s legacy will somehow survive.
What does this say about sexual assault?
Steve Wynn was (and behind the scenes still is) a powerful person surrounded by those who were all too willing to cover for him. He preyed on the vulnerable much like Hollywood moguls and movie stars who sexually abused the weak.
It is one thing to say, “We won’t tolerate such behavior,” but it is another thing to admit that the cover-up extended to many people over a long period. If Wynn was unethical, were his executives even more unethical in their refusal to do the right thing? They enabled him.
A man of Wynn’s power and celebrity took advantage of many people. He had the opportunity to roam in the world he built, and whether the need was sex or power he could have plenty of both.
He is an extremely wealthy man. Even if he is forced to resign (as appears likely) the resorts have a valuation of $12 billion, plus the millions of shares of stock. He can easily rationalize that what he did does not preclude the fact that he will never outlive his wealth. To his mind, those he abused, were just the little people.
What does it say about our culture that the executives of a publicly traded company will cover for a CEO who is without a sense of ethics? Have the ethical expectations we have of executives of publicly traded companies sunk so low they should all be required to have ethical training. In a word, “yes.” It is long overdue. It’s not ok when sexual abuse is a corporate decision.