The Commonwealth of Virginia will open an inquiry into alleged financial misconduct by the Washington Commanders, according to a letter sent to the organization Monday by Attorney General Jason Miyares.
The allegations were made during a Congressional investigation into the team that found “a pattern of deeply concerning business practices that were directed by senior leadership,” including owner Daniel M. Snyder.
The House Committee on Oversight and Reform, the body investigating Washington’s workplace culture and the NFL’s response to it, shared the evidence it has collected on April 12 with the Federal Trade Commission and the attorneys general for Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia.
The Commanders have repeatedly denied committing any financial improprieties.
“To be clear, I have not prejudged the issues raised regarding the Commanders,” Miyares wrote in a letter to Washington attorney Jordan W. Siev of Reed Smith LLP. “However, I view it as my responsibility to carefully examine the material facts regarding this matter after it was brought to my attention. I request full cooperation and transparency from your client during this inquiry.”
The Commanders responded with a statement the organization has previously released when asked about the financial aspect of the Oversight Committee’s investigation.
“The team categorically denies any suggestion of financial impropriety of any kind at any time. We adhere to strict internal processes that are consistent with industry and accounting standards, are audited annually by a globally respected independent auditing firm, and are also subject to regular audits by the NFL. We continue to cooperate fully with the Committee’s work.”
The Oversight Committee relied on evidence provided by former Washington employee Jason Friedman, who worked for the team for 24 years and eventually rose to vice president of sales and customer service. He made the allegations during a March 14 interview with the committee. Friedman was fired in October of 2020.
Friedman alleged that team executives instructed him to withhold security deposits from fans who purchased premium seating and create “artificial barriers” to discourage customers from requesting that deposits be returned. Friedman claimed that some ticket revenue from Commanders games was allocated to other events held at FedEx Field, the team’s stadium.
He also maintained the organization held “two sets of books” – one with information shared with the National Football League that underreported certain ticket revenue. The other “book” allegedly held complete and accurate revenue totals that were shared with Snyder by higher-level team executives.
The NFL requires teams to deposit 40% of ticket revenue from home games into a dispersal pot shared by all 32 franchises.
The Commanders responded to the Oversight Committee’s letter with a 105-page document sent to the FTC on April 18 that denied Friedman’s claims. Washington’s attorneys included emails they claimed provided accurate revenue totals and signed affidavits by four former team executives.
Washington in its response to the FTC disputed Friedman would have had full knowledge of financial and accounting matters. It also referred to him as a “disgruntled former employee” who provided “uncorroborated, false testimony” and that he was fired for “professional misconduct.”
The FTC has not said publicly if it would open an investigation into the Commanders.
The Oversight Committee, comprised of 25 Democrats and 19 Republicans, traded accusatory letters among its own members on April 21 with Republicans claiming the investigation by the Democratic majority was “reckless” and a “misuse of congressional oversight authority,” according to ranking member Rep. James Comer (R-Ky.).
Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney (D-N.Y.), the committee chairwoman, insisted in a response that the investigation into Washington’s workplace culture would continue.
Meanwhile, the NFL is still conducting its own investigation into a direct allegation of sexual harassment by Snyder against a former employee. That claim was made in public during a Feb. 3 roundtable led by the Oversight Committee. Tiffani Johnston, once a Washington cheerleader and later an events and marketing coordinator for the organization, alleged Snyder put his hand on her leg during a dinner and tried to coerce her into his limousine. That account was backed by Friedman in a letter to the committee.
The NFL’s investigation of that incident is being conducted by attorney Mary Jo White, the former head of the Securities and Exchange Commission.
A previous 10-month league investigation by attorney Beth Wilkinson resulted in a $10 million fine levied against Washington last July for fostering a “toxic” workplace, but the lack of a detailed written report to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell sparked the ongoing Congressional probe last October.