On May 17, 2022, the United States Department of Justice filed a civil enforcement action in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, in order to force Stephen A. Wynn, the former CEO of Wynn Resorts, to register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) as agent of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and a senior official of the PRC’s Ministry of Public Security (MPS). The DOJ allegedly advised Wynn on three occasions to register as an agent, but he declined to do so.
The DOJ has said the complaint is the first affirmative civil lawsuit under FARA in more than 30 years, a signed of increased enforcement efforts under FARA.
The Complaint’s Allegations
The complaint alleges that, from at least June 2017 through at least August 2017, Wynn communicated with the then-President Donald Trump and members of his administration to transmit the PRC’s request to cancel the visa or otherwise remove from the U.S. a Chinese businessperson who left in China, was later charged with corruption by the PRC, and applied for political asylum in the U.S. Allegedly at the request of Sun Lijun, then-Vice Minister of the MPS, Wynn communicated the request directly to President Trump over dinner and telephonically. He also had multiple discussions with President Trump and senior officials at the White House and National Security Council about organizing a meeting with Sun and other PRC government officials.
During the time in which Wynn allegedly engaged in this conduct, his company owned and operated casinos in Macau, a special administrative region in the PS. According to the DOJ, Wynn acted at the request of the PRC in order to protect his business interests in Macau. In 2016, shortly before engaging in the alleged lobbying, the Macau government restricted the number of gaming tables and machines that the Defendant’s casino could operate. Public reporting showed that Wynn was scheduled to renegotiate his licenses to operate casinos in Macau in 2019.
The DOJ alleges it notified Wynn of the obligation to register under FARA in letters dated May 16, 2018, October 27, 2021, and April 13, 2022. However, Wynn refused to register.
According to the complaint, “(i)n approximately May 2017, during a meeting coordinated by foreign national Low Taek Jho, Sun asked businessperson and former finance chair of the Republican National Committee (“RNC”) Elliot Broidy, hip-hop artist Prakazrel Michel, and businessperson Nickie Lum Davis to lobby then-President Trump and the Trump Administration to convey the PRC’s request to cancel the visa of or otherwise remove from the United States a PRC businessperson…”
In approximately June 2017, Broidy, on behalf of Sun, solicited Wynn’s assistance in the lobbying effort. Wynn served as the RNC finance chair from January 2017 through January 2018 and met Broidy through that work. Broidy believed that Wynn’s RNC experience and his business dealings in the PRC and friendship with then-President Trump, would be useful in obtaining access to Trump Administration officials.
On October 20, 2020, Broidy pleaded guilty of violating FARA. One of the charges concerned the same case as the Complaint charges Wynn with lobbying.
The Complaint illustrates the fact that the DOJ has strengthened its efforts to enforce FARA. Most likely, the DOJ will use the investigative evidence collected against Broidy and endeavor to obtain his cooperation in the Complaint against Wynn.
The Complaint and the guilty plea of Broidy also illustrate the terrible state of enforcement cooperation between the U.S. and the PRC, since the PRC is employing lobbyists to communicate with the DOJ concerning enforcement cases. Normally, the counterparts of the DOJ do this directly with the DOJ on a regular basis.
 Complaint, paragr. 18
 Id., paragr. 29.
 Id. paragr. 4.
 Id., paragr. 16.
 Id., paragr. 17.
 DOJ, Elliott Broidy Pleads Guilty for Back-Channel Lobbying Campaign to Drop 1MDB Investigation and Remove a Chinese Foreign National, Oct. 20, 2020.