Firing an employee is always a delicate matter. Not only are wrongful termination lawsuits a possibility, but there’s always the possibility that the employee has some information on the company which might be less than flattering. In a recent lawsuit, Steven Jacobs alleges he was wrongfully terminated by Sands China Ltd. as their chief executive officer. He also claims to be in possession of certain incriminating documents which Sands China might prefer not be revealed in a court of law.
The documents consist of about 40 gigabytes of information, which Sands says that Jacobs took “surreptitiously” when he was fired in 2010. The information includes three reports prepared by Steve Vickers of International Risk Ltd. The reports allegedly featured the investigation of “certain Macau government officials” and others, according to the letters sent by Sands’s lawyers to Jacobs’s lawyers, asking for the return of the documents.
Jacobs alleges that the reports were commissioned by Sands and include incriminating information “on foreign government officials, as well as individuals with whom they were doing business that were suspected of having ties to Chinese organized crime.”
Jacobs alleges that his employment with Sands was wrongfully terminated after he had disagreements with Adelson, Sands’s majority owner and chairman. The disputes include arguments over what Jacobs alleges were illegal demands that secret investigations be conducted of Macau government officials for information which Sands could then use as leverage against unfavorable regulations.
After Jacobs made these allegations, the U.S. Justice Department and Securities and Exchange Commission opened investigations to determine if Adelson’s company violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. This Act bars any company with operations in the U.S. from making improper payments to foreign officials in order to win or maintain business.
Although Sands denies Jacobs’s allegations, it did admit a few months ago that it had found likely violations of the books, records, and internal provisions of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. Around the same time, Adelson said in a declaration that the investigation had been commissioned by Jacobs, not by the company. Adelson claims that he knew nothing of the investigation until after Jacobs had been fired. In his declaration, Adelson states, “I never asked or authorized Jacobs to conduct a private investigation or ‘create a dossier’ on Macanese officials. … We believe unequivocally that Jacobs initiated the investigation on his own for his own purposes.”
Last year, Sands was sanctioned by Nevada District Judge Elizabeth Gonzalez for failing to disclose the fact that it was sitting on a trove of documents in Nevada which Jacobs sought to use as evidence. The company, however, claimed that the documents could not be removed from Macau and that they are “privileged” and therefore exempt from disclosure. Gonzalez disagreed however, and ruled that Jacobs could legally use the documents as evidence.
Currently, the case has reached a standstill. Sands is now appealing three other rulings by the lower court to the Nevada Supreme Court and, most recently, it has won a postponement hearing on whether Sands China, being a Chinese company, can be tried in Nevada.
Jacobs claimed that this is nothing more than stalling the case in order to keep the incriminating documents against Sands hidden. Sands called these accusations “baseless”.