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Washington Commanders deny illegal financial activity in new letter to Federal Trade Commission

The Washington Commanders and team owner Dan Snyder have been accused of financial wrongdoing, as well as hiding money that was to be shared among NFL owners. The allegations were made to the House Committee on Oversight and Reform by Jason Friedman, who served as the vice president of sales and customer service for the Commanders for 24 years. 

Friedman claims Washington used “two books” of financial information and records that gave different accounts of the franchise’s financial situation, withheld as much as $5 million in refundable deposits from season ticket holders and reallocated Commanders ticket money, claiming it was revenue that came from other events held at FedExField. The committee then sent a letter to the FTC to provide it with the information and documents necessary to determine whether the Commanders violated laws which are enforced by the FTC.

Now, per The Washington Post, the Commanders have replied to these allegations. On Monday, Washington’s NFL franchise sent an 18-page letter to Lina M. Khan, the chair of the FTC, that described Friedman’s claims as “baseless” and said that “no investigation was warranted.” The letter also described Friedman as a “disgruntled former employee” who was fired for professional misconduct, which included having a sexual relationship with a subordinate. The Commanders said that Friedman petitioned for 15 months to rejoin the organization, with his last request sent on Jan. 4 to team president Jason Wright. 

The Commanders refuted Friedman’s claims, using documents as well as insight from four former executives: Team counsel David Donovan, chief operating officer Mitch Gershman, director of finance Paul Szczenski and senior vice president Michael Dillow. In all, the Commanders said they did not hide security deposits and did not make purposeful egregious accounting errors that benefitted the franchise. They claimed that Friedman lied to the Committee on issues, “big and small.”

One point the letter made was that Friedman apparently “did not have duties or training by which it would even be possible for him to develop a valid opinion about the Team’s accounting practices.” Gershman said Friedman did not work in Ashburn, where the accounting and financial staff were located, and did not have training as an accountant or financial professional. The team also attacked Friedman’s email evidence in which he claimed showed the team was moving money around to hide from the NFL’s ticket revenue pot, saying that it was a “partial email chain” that did not accurately reflect the final accounting decision — which “always” happened outside the presence of Friedman. Here’s an excerpt from the letter: 

“The conclusion is obvious. Friedman’s statements ‘are pure speculation, as he had no insight into how the financial data was processed, how that financial information was used during any audit, and how that financial information was evaluated by auditors…. He had no visibility whatsoever into how any of the raw data or customer contract information he provided fit into the larger audit process, and certainly not how that would fit into the larger financial statements and detail provided by the Team.'”

It remains to be seen what happens next and if the FTC will launch an investigation, but this was a pointed response to what many thought could be the death knell for Snyder’s ownership.