On Tuesday, a Los Angeles Superior Court jury decided that Girls Gone Wild producer Joe Francis must pay Wynn Resorts chairman Steve Wynn $20m in punitive damages. The sum is on top of the $20m in compensatory damages the same jury awarded Wynn on Monday after finding Francis had slandered Wynn. The case dates way back to 2007, when Francis ran up a $2.5m tab at a Wynn casino in Las Vegas, but paid only $500k. Francis subsequently alleged that Steve had threatened to hit him over the head with a shovel and bury his body in the desert if he didn’t pay the rest of his marker. Wynn won an earlier $7.5m judgment against Francis, bringing the total sum Francis owes Wynn as a result of this original $2m debt to $50m, and that’s before factoring in Francis’ own legal costs. Bottom line: this is what you get when you convince yourself that the normal rules by which most of us have to conduct ourselves don’t apply to a guy whose primary skill set involves getting drunk girls to show him their tits.
Back in Nevada, the casino company run by Steve Wynn’s on-again/off-again BFF Sheldon Adelson is waging its own epic legal fight. Monday saw the start of a three-day hearing into whether Las Vegas Sands (LVS) should be fined for withholding evidence in the wrongful termination suit brought against the company by former Sands China CEO Steve Jacobs. Clark County District Judge Elizabeth Gonzalez was most pissed after discovering that she’d spent a year determining whether documents related to the case were legally able to leave the jurisdiction of Macau, only to learn that LVS officials had themselves transferred the documents in question to the States years earlier.
The hearings began Monday with a variation of the classic Watergate question: what did LVS know about the documents being transferred and when did they know it? Stephen Peek, LVS’ lead attorney in the suit, told the court that in preparing LVS’ defense, he’d made copies of about 100 emails relating to Jacobs, but Peek couldn’t say for sure whether he’d ever disclosed their availability in attorney conferences earlier this year. Jacobs’ attorney Todd Bice wryly noted that he was positive Peek hadn’t told him.
LVS attorneys repeatedly objected to Bice’s questioning and claimed many of the answers Bice sought were protected by attorney-client privilege. Gonzalez sustained many of these objections, but cautioned that she might factor in this reliance on attorney-client privilege in deciding whether or not LVS should be fined. Gonzalez also noted that there were “certain inconsistencies in the spin” LVS attorneys had originally made regarding the limitations the Macau Personal Data Protection Act had allegedly placed on the court’s ability to access the documents in question. Gonzalez left the door open for Jacobs’ attorneys to make separate legal claims against LVS on this issue. The hearing is scheduled to conclude Wednesday.