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Congress investigating allegations of financial impropriety by Commanders

(Patrick Semansky/AP)

The congressional committee that is investigating the NFL’s handling of widespread sexual harassment in the Washington Commanders’ workplace is now also looking into allegations of financial improprieties under Daniel Snyder’s ownership, multiple people familiar with the proceedings said.

The allegations came to light in recent weeks as the House Committee on Oversight and Reform reviewed more than 80,000 pages of documents and interviewed witnesses in its inquiry of the team’s workplace and the NFL’s handling of the matter, said those people with knowledge of the matter, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the proceedings are at a sensitive stage.

The financial investigation remains behind closed doors and among the highest levels of the 45-person committee. Asked about this new phase, several members of the panel indicated they have heard speculation about it but said it remains at such a sensitive point that they do not know details. Other members were unaware.

“The investigation is going forward,” Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney (D-N.Y.), chair of the committee, said in a brief interview Thursday.

Maloney did not spell out details of the new phase of the probe but acknowledged it had moved well beyond the original focus of allegations centering on sexual misconduct.

“The team is not aware of any investigation by the House Oversight Committee regarding financial matters, despite vague and unsubstantiated claims today by anonymous sources,” a Commanders spokesman said. “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.”

NFL hires former U.S. attorney, SEC chair to investigate Daniel Snyder and Commanders

The committee’s examination of alleged financial irregularities in team operations comes amid the NFL’s second investigation of the team or Snyder’s behavior in the past 19 months.

The NFL’s current probe — led by Mary Jo White, a former U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York and former chair of the Securities and Exchange Commission — was prompted by an allegation of sexual misconduct against Snyder that was aired during a public roundtable hosted by the committee Feb. 3. During the proceedings, Tiffani Johnston, a former cheerleader and team marketing manager, told members of Congress that Snyder harassed her at a team dinner, putting his hand on her thigh and pressing her toward his limo afterward. In a statement, Snyder called Johnston’s allegations “outright lies.”

When asked whether the panel is looking into allegations of financial impropriety, a spokesperson for the committee said: “The Committee continues to investigate the hostile workplace and culture of impunity at the Washington Commanders as well as the National Football League’s inadequate response and lack of transparency. The Committee will follow the facts wherever they may lead.”

The NFL declined to comment.

The House Oversight Committee launched its investigation of the team in October, after some members expressed dissatisfaction with a perceived lack of transparency in the NFL’s investigation of the team’s workplace, which was led by Beth Wilkinson and began in the summer of 2020.

Following Wilkinson’s 10-month investigation, the NFL fined the team $10 million in July and announced that Snyder’s wife, Tanya, the team’s co-CEO, would take over the franchise’s day-to-day operations for an unspecified period. The NFL did not release Wilkinson’s findings, saying then that she had been directed to relay her conclusions orally rather than in writing.

On Capitol Hill, ex-Washington NFL employees levy new harassment claims against Daniel Snyder

The committee requested the NFL turn over all documents and information related to Wilkinson’s work, as well as her findings. Frustrated by what it called partial compliance by the NFL, the committee set a second deadline for all of the requested documents and threatened further action in February for anything short of that. In a February letter to the committee, the NFL wrote that the Commanders were denying access to approximately 109,000 requested documents related to Wilkinson’s investigation. An attorney for Snyder denied the assertion.

The House Oversight Committee is the investigative arm of Congress, and Maloney has subpoena power to compel the production of documents not willingly provided and the authority to convene hearings on matters of public interest. There is some disagreement among members, largely breaking down along party lines, over whether the inner dynamics of a professional football team warrant the committee’s attention, and the revelation of the most recent allegations only intensified those dynamics.

“The leak of one-sided, unconfirmed, unsupported allegations from a disgruntled ex-employee with an ax to grind is just further proof the Democrats’ investigation is a waste of Congress’ time,” GOP Oversight Spokesperson Austin Hacker said. “Nothing the Committee has heard from any credible witness points to any financial improprieties; in fact, the only credible witness in a position to know the facts the Democrats have heard from has denied any such improprieties.”

While the committee’s focus remains on the Commanders’ workplace culture and the NFL’s handling of allegations of pervasive sexual misconduct within the franchise, the financial allegations arrive amid indications that the NFL is growing weary of defending Snyder.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell publicly rebuked Snyder for announcing during Super Bowl week that the team would handle the investigation of Johnston’s allegations. Goodell said instead the NFL would do so via an independent investigator because it would be improper for the team to investigate itself.

At the NFL’s annual meetings Tuesday in Palm Beach, Fla., Goodell said Tanya Snyder would continue to oversee the team’s daily functions and represent the Commanders at league meetings “for at least the foreseeable future.”

Daniel Snyder pledged support for the NFL’s investigation. His actions tell a different story.

The Commanders are worth $4.2 billion, according to Forbes. While in his 30s, Snyder led an investment group that bought the team and its stadium for $800 million in 1999.

After an acrimonious dispute in 2020 with his second set of limited partners in the team, Snyder was granted a debt ceiling waiver by the NFL in March 2021 that enabled him to buy out his partners’ combined 40 percent stake for approximately $875 million.

The deal put ownership of the team entirely in the hands of Snyder and family members but saddled him with as much as an additional $450 million in debt at a time when the Commanders’ fan base is eroding. The NFL’s top-drawing team in the early 2000s, Washington ranked 31st among the league’s 32 teams in home attendance last season, ahead of only the Detroit Lions.

Anheuser-Busch, the official beer sponsor of the NFL and more than two dozen of its teams, acknowledged in a mid-March statement to The Washington Post that it was ending its partnership with the Commanders.

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The latest: Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney (D-N.Y.), the chairwoman of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, announced that the committee intends to issue a subpoena to compel the testimony of Commanders owner Daniel Snyder.

Exclusive: An employee of Washington’s NFL team accused Snyder of asking for sex, groping her and attempting to remove her clothes, according to legal correspondence obtained by The Post. A team investigation concluded the woman was lying in an attempt to extort Snyder.

Civil suits settled: Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson has reached settlement agreements in 20 of the 24 active civil lawsuits filed against him by women who accused him of sexual misconduct, the attorney for the women announced.

Jerry Brewer: “The Browns were prepared for initial turbulence, but they assumed they were getting Watson at the end of his troubles. Now his disgrace is their disaster.”

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