Not so long ago, a former female employee filed a discrimination lawsuit against Oceans Casino. The woman, Loretta Pickus, is claiming that she was sacked for interrogating and doubting the correctness of the casino’s financial audit that was submitted to state regulators. Before she was fired, she worked as a senior vice president and general counsel for the casino.
Apart from Oceans Casino itself, Pickus is also suing Ocean’s hedge fund parent company Luxor Capital, as well as 2 members of the committee, Cory Morowitz, and Fred DeVesa. Pickus who had worked in the AC casino industry for close to 30 years claims her termination was unlawful.
She claims that members of Ocean’s audit committee asked her severally to be ‘softer’ or ‘less harsh’ during meetings, something that they never once did to her male co-workers. Her suit, therefore, declares violations of whistleblower statutes, as well as gender discrimination. After she was fired, Pickus claimed that her employer replaced her with a less experienced make attorney.
How did the Oceans Casino discrimination lawsuit come about?
Pickus’s accusations point to a possible violation of the audit charter, which DGE officials take very seriously. The lawsuit all stemmed from a technical violation that has seemingly flown off the handle.
This is how it all began:
Back at the start of the year (January 2019), Oceans Casino announced that it had hired a new director of surveillance, Mark Evans, but it wasn’t clear whether the director would serve in a temporary or permanent capacity, which is relevant as a temporary appointment would have expired 5 months later in May 2019.
Pickus’ lawsuit alleges that she’d received an anonymous tip that brought to light that Evans’ position was indeed temporary and not permanent on July 8th. This means that Evans had been allowed by the committee to continue serving in that capacity even after his temporary position expired, which according to Pickus, went against the rules set by the DGE.
Confused and seeking clarity as to what steps to take next, Pickus, sought advice from the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement. However, this seems to have blown up in her face as 10 days after contacting the DGE, 3 audit committee members from Oceans stepped forward claiming that the committee couldn’t recall whether the new director had been hired on a temporary or permanent basis.
On January 23rd, 2020, Pickus attended a meeting with the casino’s audit committee where she presented a brief statement and memo requesting that the audit committee change its July 2019 minutes to reflect that Evans’ hiring was indeed temporary and not permanent. This would mean that Oceans would have to accept liability for one, submitting false minutes to the DGE and two, for failing to follow the correct hiring procedures as outlined by the DGE.
Four days after presenting her statement and memo, she was fired by the Casino. Pickus claims that she was only fired after she spoke about the intentional discrepancies in the Audit Committee meetings. Pickus was the only female in the all-male audit committee. She was also the sole remaining member of the previous management before Ocean Casino took over.
According to her lawyer, Oceans Casino only fired Pickus after objecting to the committee’s submission of inaccurate information to the DGE, the state body that’s charged with the responsibility of regulating the industry.
The lawyer alleges that the firing was a retaliatory move against Pickus who was only doing her job. As a result of the firing, Pickus’s lawyers claim that she has suffered immense emotional and financial harm while disgracing her reputation after more than 30 years in the gaming industry. Pickus’ lawsuit is now filed in the Superior Court of New Jersey where she is seeking restitution from her unlawful termination at the beginning of the year 2020 as discussed here.
Ocean Casino denies everything
The pair two from the casino’s Audit Committee, Cory Morowitz, and Fred DeVesa, have denied all the accusations brought forward against them stating that they did not submit any false minutes to the DGE.
They have also claimed that they had nothing to do with Pickus’ firing. They are therefore requesting that the lawsuit be thrown out. Tim Louie spokesman for Ocean Casino, as well as the NJDGE, are yet to respond with a comment on the case.
Ocean has had its fair share of legal troubles this year. Just earlier in the year, Borgata filed a lawsuit accusing Ocean Casino of poaching its executives and trade secrets as we’ve covered here. Borgata claimed that Ocean had poached half a dozen of its top marketing executives in an attempt to cripple its operations despite having non-compete agreements that prevent the executives from working for competitors at least a year after exiting the company.
As you may very well know, Borgata is the best performing casino in Atlantic City. Ocean, formerly Revel Casino, closed down in 2014 after barely 2 years of operations. During that time, it did not record a profit. The brand re-opened in 2018 as Oceans and has managed to turn things around as discussed here.
Of the 9 AC casinos, Ocean is ranked 6th in terms of total revenue. Borgata still generates almost 3 times what Oceans Casino makes. This lawsuit by Borgata was filed in Nevada, which is where Borgata’s parent company MGM Resorts is based.
The hearing to determine whether the lawsuit leveraged against the pair should be dismissed will be heard in January 2021. It is worth noting that such cases and lawsuits are quite common in the casino gaming industry so the matter will get sorted out eventually.
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