Casino mogul Sheldon Adelson's Las Vegas Sands Corp. lost a legal bid Friday to prevent a wrongful termination lawsuit brought by a former senior executive in China from being heard in a U.S. court, according to reports.
Steven Jacobs, who was formerly the CEO of Sands China, alleges in the suit that he was fired for blocking large payments to a Macau legislator and a lawyer, which he believed broke U.S. anti-bribery laws. It further alleges that Adelson opposed his attempts to break links with the region's Triad organized crime groups, the Guardian reported.
Adelson has denied the claims, saying that Jacobs was fired for working on unauthorized deals and violating company policy.
Sands Corp. wanted the case -- which has been dragging since 2010 -- to be heard in Macau, but Clark County District Court Judge Elizabeth Gonzalez ruled Friday that her court has jurisdiction over the case, Bloomberg reported.
The key issue was the extent to which Adelson controlled Sands China from his base in Las Vegas. Adelson said during testimony that he could not possibly control the company from several thousand miles away, but Judge Gonzalez disagreed.
"Adelson and (Las Vegas Sands') control over (Sands China) goes far beyond the ordinary relationship of parent and subsidiary," Gonzalez wrote, according to the Associated Press. Ultimately, Adelson made all the decisions, big and little, when it came to Sands China, she said.
Lawyers for Adelson said that they would explore options to appeal the decision.
Attorney Todd Bice accused the defendants of raising the jurisdiction issue to stall the entire case.
“They don’t want this case heard anywhere where the facts will come out, and they’re smart enough to know that in a U.S. courtroom, you don’t get to keep secrets, and the facts are going to come out,” he told the Las Vegas Review Journal.
The case could have wider significance for Sands Corp. because of the allegations of ties to organized crime. If any such accusations were proved, it could put the company's gaming licenses in jeopardy.
Adelson, who is named personally in the lawsuit, took up the role of CEO of Sands China in March, as revenue at the company's Macau casinos nosedived, following a crackdown on official corruption launched by the Chinese government.