The casino company said in a filing Friday that the Securities and Exchange Commission asked two years ago for records relating to compliance with the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.
Las Vegas Sands, which is controlled by billionaire Sheldon Adelson, said that after it got the SEC subpoena on Feb. 9, 2011, the audit committee of the board of directors opened an investigation.
In its annual report, filed Friday with the SEC, the company said that the audit committee "reached certain preliminary findings, including that there were likely violations of the books and records and internal controls provisions" of the anti-bribery law.
Las Vegas Sands said that based on information from the audit committee and its lawyers, it expects that the findings will not have a material financial impact or force restatement of past financial results.
The company said that it had improved its record-keeping and internal-controls practices in recent years, and added that the audit committee's investigation was continuing.
The Wall Street Journal, citing an anonymous source, reported Saturday that the findings were related to business deals in mainland China led by executives no longer with the company.
The company said in its annual report that it believed the SEC investigation stemmed from a lawsuit filed in 2010 in Nevada by the former CEO of its Chinese subsidiary, Steven C. Jacobs, who is seeking unspecified damages. Las Vegas Sands said in the filing that it couldn't predict the outcome of the still-pending case but will defend itself vigorously.
The Journal reported that Nevada gambling regulators are also investigating the matter, citing people familiar with the case.
In recent years, Las Vegas Sands has expanded aggressively in Asia, building a casino business in the Chinese district of Macau.
Las Vegas Sands reported in January that fourth-quarter net income jumped more than 35 percent, helped greatly by booming business in Macau, the only place in China with legal gambling and a haven for high-rollers. Revenue in the company's Chinese subsidiary soared 48 percent higher than a year earlier.
The company also operates the Venetian and Palazzo casinos in Las Vegas.