Ben DiPietro, The Wall Street Journal’s Risk & Compliance Journal, February 27, 2018

Steve Wynn resigned as chairman and chief executive of casino and hotel company Wynn Resorts Ltd. this month following an article in The Wall Street Journal which, drawing on interviews with dozens of people who have worked for Mr. Wynn, described behavior that amounted to a decadeslong pattern of alleged sexual misconduct by the CEO.

They included an allegation Mr. Wynn in 2005 paid a $7.5 million settlement to a manicurist who told people at the time that Mr. Wynn forced her to have sex with him.

Mr. Wynn told The Journal before his resignation: “The idea that I ever assaulted any woman is preposterous,” blaming his ex-wife for “the instigation of these accusations.”

The company issued a Feb. 6 press release announcing Mr. Wynn’s resignation, calling him “an industry giant…[who] played a pivotal role in transforming Las Vegas into the entertainment destination it is today.” Mr. Wynn said in the same release he’s “been the focus of an avalanche of negative publicity” and “reached the conclusion I cannot continue to be effective in my current roles.”

Wynn’s board named Matt Maddox, the company’s president, as its new CEO and initiated an outside investigation of Mr. Wynn’s conduct but canceled it because Mr. Wynn resigned. It hired a different law firm to conduct the probe.

Three crisis-management experts analyze the responses of the company and Mr. Wynn.

Davia Temin, president and chief executive, Temin and Co.: “Wynn Resorts’ and Steve Wynn’s responses…are par for the course among organizations that choose to defend themselves and not admit wrongdoing publicly. The exact same statements could be made by guilty and innocent alike. This throws us back to a highly advanced game of ‘he said, she said.’

“Mr. Wynn’s personal responses were emotional and moving. It used to be emotional, high-valence comments were rare and could win the day. That no longer works; everyone has ratcheted up the emotionalism, until we are at a fever pitch. The problem is you can have dueling facts because, in these kinds of cases, the facts are rarely neat: They are muddy, embarrassing, nuanced, messy and open to widely varying interpretations. This is why companies often rely on outside investigations, which can carry an imprimatur of authority.

“Unfortunately, the board just fired one investigating law firm only to hire another. This smacks of expert-shopping and casts doubt on the earnestness of the board’s efforts.”

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