Congress investigating allegations of financial impropriety by Commanders

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

“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.”

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 US 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 Oversight Committee on 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 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 findings orally rather than in writing.

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 House 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 its chair, Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney (DN.Y.), 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.

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.”

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 with his second set of limited partners in the team in 2020, 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, the Commanders 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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