April 7 (Reuters) Las Vegas Sands Corp agreed to pay $9 million to end the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission's more than five-year probe into whether it violated a federal anti-bribery law by paying a consultant to help it do business in China and Macau.
Thursday's civil settlement resolves charges that the casino operator run by billionaire Sheldon Adelson violated the federal Foreign Corrupt Practices Act by failing to properly authorize or document more than $62 million of payments to the consultant, known within the company as a "beard," between 2006 and 2011.
The SEC said the consultant served as a middleman to Las Vegas Sands' effort to buy a team in the Chinese Basketball Association, which forbade gaming companies from ownership, and part of a Beijing building despite China's casino gambling ban.
Las Vegas Sands also failed to properly document some transactions involving its Macau operations, the SEC said.
Publicly traded companies such as Las Vegas Sands "must have appropriate financial controls in place to ensure that expenses are paid for bona fide services," Andrew Ceresney, head of the SEC enforcement division, said in a statement.
Las Vegas Sands agreed to hire an independent compliance consultant for two years as part of the settlement.
The company did not admit or deny wrongdoing, and said the SEC did not find it had corrupt intent or committed bribery.
Las Vegas Sands said the SEC probe stemmed from a breach-of-contract lawsuit by Steve Jacobs, who once led its Sands China unit, but that his allegations formed no basis for the regulator's findings.
It also said the SEC findings were consistent with those previously found Las Vegas Sands' audit committee. The $9 million penalty represents less than two days of profit.
In a statement, Adelson said Las Vegas Sands was pleased to settle, and is committed to a "world class" compliance program.
Adelson, 82, was not charged with or accused of wrongdoing. He is worth $28.1 billion according to Forbes magazine, and is a major donor to Republican political candidates.
Las Vegas Sands' properties include the Venetian and the Palazzo Las Vegas, the Venetian and the Four Seasons in Macau, and the Marina Sands in Singapore, among others.
(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Additional reporting by Arathy Nair in Bengaluru; Editing by David Gregorio and Jonathan Oatis)