O’Melveny & Myers and Ropes & Gray have been hired to lead investigations into high-profile sexual misconduct scandals gripping Wynn Resorts and the U.S. Olympic Committee.
The USOC announced on Feb. 2 that it had retained Ropes & Gray as outside counsel to conduct an investigation into decades of sexual abuse by former USA Gymnastics national team doctor Lawrence Nassar.
Similarly, on Friday, the board of directors of Las Vegas-based Wynn Resorts Ltd. said that it hired O’Melveny & Myers to assist a special committee of independent directors tasked with looking into allegations of sexual misconduct by its chairman and CEO Stephen Wynn.
The Wall Street Journal first reported a week ago that dozens of people had come forward alleging decades of sexual misconduct by the billionaire casino mogul. Wynn dismissed the allegations but subsequently stepped down from his post as finance chairman of the Republican National Committee.
Apalla Chopra, chair of O’Melveny & Myers’ labor and employment practice, and partner Daniel Bookin, who previously helmed the firm’s white-collar defense and corporate investigations practice, have been tapped to lead the firm’s investigation for Wynn Resorts.
Chopra previously served as independent counsel to the University of Virginia’s board of visitors in connection with its investigation of the school’s handling of sexual assaults following a controversial November 2014 feature story by Rolling Stone magazine. More recently, Chopra represented Harvard University in a Title IX suit alleging that the school mishandled allegations of sexual assault brought by a former student.
Not involved in the Wynn Resorts probe is Daniel Petrocelli, chair of the firm’s trial practice committee at O’Melveny & Myers, who along with several other notable litigators made headlines for his work on behalf of Hollywood movie mogul Harvey Weinstein. The New York Times reported that Petrocelli represented Weinstein in a $100,000 settlement with Ashley Matthau in 2004 following the actor’s claim that Weinstein sexually assaulted her in his hotel room.
Former Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher partner Kim Sinatra serves as general counsel for Wynn Resorts, which has made her one of the highest-paid executives in Las Vegas, according to Vegas Inc. The company appointed former U.S. ambassador to China and ex-Shearman & Sterling partner Clark Randt Jr. to its board in late 2015.
As for the USOC, which since 2010 has been led by Scott Blackmun, a former partner at predecessor firms to Bryan Cave and Hogan Lovells, it has been spurred to join a list of organizations hiring outside counsel to cope with the aftermath of Nassar’s crimes. (Blackmun, recently diagnosed with prostate cancer, has faced calls to resign from his position.)
Nassar, accused of molesting at least 250 girls and young women going as far back to 1992, has received three decades-long criminal convictions. In December, he was sentenced to 60 years in federal prison after pleading guilty to child pornography charges. After another guilty plea to sexually assaulting minors, Nassar was sentenced on Jan. 24 to serve between 40 and 175 years in state prison. On Monday, Nassar was ordered to serve an additional 40 to 125 years in state prison in another criminal case.
“Ropes & Gray will prepare a written report, which will be released in its entirety to the public,” said a statement by Susanne Lyons, an independent director at the USOC and head of the nonprofit organization’s special committee. “The investigation will be professional, independent and thorough, and will take as long as necessary to get to the truth.”
Leading the Ropes & Gray team are partners and former federal prosecutors Joan McPhee in New York and James Dowden, who joined the firm’s Boston office in 2012. McPhee, a member of Ropes & Gray’s governing policy committee and a former deputy chief of the appeals unit for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, previously represented former BP plc engineer Kurt Mix, who settled obstruction of justice charges following the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
The American Lawyer reported almost a year ago on former Baker & Daniels partner John “Jack” Swarbrick Jr., now the current athletic director at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana, establishing a relationship between the firm and Indianapolis-based USA Gymnastics. Baker & Daniels merged with Faegre & Benson to form Faegre Baker Daniels on Jan. 1, 2012. The combined firm has continued to handle outside legal work for USA Gymnastics.
On Monday, Swarbrick and what was then known as Baker & Daniels were revealed to have advised USA Gymnastics on its policies related to sexual abuse, according to a report by The Indianapolis Star. A spokeswoman for Faegre Baker Daniels, which federal tax records show received $191,547 from USA Gymnastics in 2015, declined to comment on the matter when contacted by the newspaper.