Snyder fined $60M over findings in investigation


BLOOMINGTON, Minn. — The NFL fined former Washington Commanders owner Dan Snyder $60 million after an independent investigation concluded he sexually harassed a team employee and that the team withheld revenue from the NFL.

Attorney Mary Jo White, who led the investigation, informed the league’s owners of her findings during a special session Thursday. The news of her findings broke at the same time it was announced that the owners had unanimously approved the sale of the Commanders to Josh Harris for $6.05 billion. The fine against Snyder represents 1% of the sale price.

In her findings, White cited Snyder’s lack of cooperation, apart from a one-hour interview he did with investigators on June 29, about 17 months after her investigation began.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said the league was satisfied with the outcome.

“The findings speak for themselves,” Goodell said.

White said in her report that she interviewed 44 former employees during her investigation, but said several former high-ranking officials declined to speak. She began her investigation in February 2022, 15 days after Tiffani Johnston alleged that Snyder sexually harassed her.

In a roundtable session with members of the House Oversight Committee, Johnston said Snyder put his hand on her leg under the table while at a work-related dinner. She also said Snyder tried to force her into his limousine after the event. Another former employee, Jason Friedman, corroborated Johnston’s testimony.

Snyder denied the allegations, first in a statement after her initial testimony and again during his interview with investigators. However, White said she found Johnston to be credible after interviewing her and talking to others Johnston had told about the event. White said Johnston’s allegations of sexual harassment were “sustained.”

Johnston declined to be interviewed by attorney Beth Wilkinson for her nearly yearlong investigation into Washington’s workplace culture under Snyder. That led to a $10 million fine levied against the franchise in July 2021. But when Johnston spoke to Congress, it amounted to a new allegation prompting another investigation, this time by White.

White’s findings also backed up Friedman’s allegations of financial improprieties. During his testimony before the House Oversight Committee, Friedman discussed ways the team shielded revenue from the league, which would be distributed among its owners.

She wrote that their investigation “identified approximately $11 million in revenues (including those in the Jason Friedman allegations) that the Club appears to have improperly shielded from sharing, to the extent required by NFL policies.”

Attorney Lisa Banks, who represented both Johnston and Friedman — among several dozen former employees — told ESPN’s Don Van Natta Jr. that the report was “really strong.”

“This is utter vindication for Tiffani Johnston and Jason Friedman,” Banks said.

Friedman recently filed a lawsuit against Snyder and one of his advisors, John Brownlee, for defamation.

In a statement, Banks also said, “We demand that Mr. Snyder and the Washington Commanders immediately retract their false and defamatory statements about Mr. Friedman and issue an apology for their repeated attempts to smear, harass and intimidate those who have come forward.”

White found credible evidence to back up Friedman’s claims of financial misconduct by the organization, focusing on the period starting in 2008 when she said season ticket sales started to decline.

She said they identified “additional ticket, parking, license, and other revenues that were transferred from an account that held shareable football-related revenues into non-shareable accounts.” But, she said, they could not determine the total amount of these revenues.

She also said they could not determine if Snyder “directed or personally participated in the improper shielding of revenues” from the NFL’s sharing policies. But, White said, Snyder was “aware of certain efforts to minimize revenue sharing, at least some of which were later found to be in violation of the NFL rules.” She also said Snyder set a tone that “pressured employees to cut costs and improve the financial performance of the club.”

White pointed to emails from numerous employees to back up Friedman’s claims. She said one former employee jokingly emailed the team’s then-chief financial officer after agreeing to allocate NFL shareable revenue instead to a college football game played at their stadium that “[i]f the NFL had a jail … we would be in it.”

She also said that another former employee felt discomfort with the team’s recording and reporting of NFL revenues. White said this employee said the overall culture was to “maximize revenue, break the rules if you need to” and “do as much as you can, but don’t get caught.” And, White said, more emails corroborated Friedman’s allegation that the team kept a second set of books to hide ticket revenue.

White’s investigation included using forensic accountants who helped determine that a significant portion of $44 million that had been transferred from shareable revenue to non-shareable revenue might have been improperly shielded.

White also said the team failed to cooperate in producing some requested relevant documents and that a number of former senior executives declined to be interviewed. That, she said, prevented them from knowing the full amount of underreported revenues or the extent of Snyder’s knowledge of what took place.

White’s findings also backed up Friedman’s claims that the team under Snyder failed to return security deposits in a timely manner, or to timely remit unclaimed security deposits. The team told investigators that, as of Monday, it still held $1.9 million in security deposits for inactive accounts.

Meanwhile, Banks also reiterated in the statement her dissatisfaction with how the NFL handled the situation.

Banks said while it was a day to celebrate, “we would be remiss in not asking why, after being repeatedly made aware of the numerous allegations against Mr. Snyder — through our clients’ testimony, the Beth Wilkinson investigation and a Congressional investigation — the NFL and Roger Goodell allowed him to retain ownership, buried the findings of its own investigation and most importantly, helped him hide and avoid accountability.”

“We have repeatedly asked the NFL and Commissioner Goodell to condition the sale on a commitment from Snyder that he will not retaliate against our clients and others who participated in these investigations,” Banks went on to say in her statement. “He has ignored our concerns. What will the NFL do to make our clients and others whose lives were deeply damaged by Snyder and his organization, whole?”


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