Billionaire Sheldon Adelson Faces Possible FCPA Bribery Allegations

Republican political contributor Sheldon Adelson is under scrutiny for possible violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA). Mr. Adelson paid Leonel Alberto Alves, a lawyer in Macau, to represent the interests of Sands China Limited in the gambling capital. Sands China Limited is Mr. Adelson’s Macau-based operation of Las Vegas Sands.

The attorney to whom Mr. Adelson made payments also happens to be a local legislator, a national congressional consultant, and a member of the executive advisory board of Macau’s chief executive. The attorney’s political positions have led to the investigation of Mr. Adelson for potential violations of the FCPA, which prohibits a company from making payments to foreign officials to influence their decisions for the benefit of the company. It appears that paying the Macau attorney also triggered concern within the company.

The attorney was paid somewhere between $500,000 and $700,000 over a period of four months, according to an interview on National Public Radio. This amount was apparently higher than planned, and the general counsel for the Las Vegas Sands warned that the payments ran a risk of violating the FCPA.

The FCPA does not prohibit hiring someone in a private capacity simply because he or she also has an official position in the government. However, the parties to such a relationship must take care to keep the relationship on an appropriate level. The attorney, for example, should not be working with fellow legislators on an issue if he is being paid as a private attorney to work on that issue. The limits on the relationship should be clearly defined.

There has been no determination that Mr. Adelson was involved in bribery in Macau, but the business relationship between Mr. Adelson and the Macau attorney has certainly drawn interest. The Macau operation represents approximately two thirds of the total income of Las Vegas Sands, so the stakes are clearly very high.

Uncovering evidence of bribery is often difficult, and whistleblowers with access to inside information about a bribery scheme are very valuable in building a case under the FCPA. Under the Dodd-Frank Act, a whistleblower with evidence of FCPA or other securities violations may be entitled to a portion of any sanctions.

Waters & Kraus is a national firm with highly skilled lawyers practicing qui tam litigation in four offices, including Dallas, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Baltimore. Our attorneys have decades of experience successfully representing whistleblowers in a variety of fraud cases. Contact us or call our attorneys at 800.226.9880 to learn more about our practice and how we can assist.

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