Daniel Snyder conducted ‘shadow investigation’ of accusers, House committee finds

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Washington Commanders owner Daniel Snyder and members of his legal team conducted a ‘shadow investigation’ and compiled a ‘dossier’ targeting former team employees, their lawyers and journalists in an effort to discredit his accusers and shift blame following allegations of widespread team misconduct. workplace, according to the findings of the survey conducted by the House Committee on Oversight and Reform.

Additionally, Snyder hired private investigators and attorneys to uncover inappropriate emails and evidence aimed at convincing the NFL and Beth Wilkinson, who was leading a league-sponsored investigation into sexual harassment in the organization, that the president of Longtime member of Snyder’s team, Bruce Allen, was primarily responsible for any workplace issues.

The preliminary findings were detailed in a 29-page memo from Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney (DN.Y.), the committee chair, to fellow committee members ahead of Wednesday’s hearing on Capitol Hill on the venue. of commanders to which NFL commissioner Roger Goodell is supposed to testify under oath. Snyder declined to participate, objecting to the date and terms.

“This memorandum describes evidence uncovered by the Committee demonstrating that, albeit publicly, the NFL and commanders touted the hiring of a respected DC attorney. [Wilkinson] to conduct an internal investigation into the toxic workplace of the commanders, in private, the owner of the commanders, Daniel Snyder, launched a shadow investigation in an apparent effort to discredit his accusers in the eyes of the NFL and offer an alternative target for the ‘investigation,’ Maloney wrote in his memo. “Bound together by an agreement to pursue a common interest and a common legal strategy, the NFL and the commanders finally buried Ms. Wilkinson’s findings.”

Team representatives and an attorney for Snyder did not immediately respond to requests for comment Wednesday morning. Asked to comment on the committee’s findings, an NFL spokesperson referenced remarks prepared by Goodell for Wednesday’s hearing.

Document reveals details of 2009 sexual assault allegation against Daniel Snyder

“It took great courage for many to relive their painful experiences and tell their individual stories,” read in part Goodell’s comments. “No one should experience workplaces like the one they have described, especially not in the National Football League. I can say unequivocally to every victim that their willingness to come forward has helped to improve their workplace dramatically.

“It is clear to me that the workplace in Washington was unprofessional and unacceptable in many ways: bullying, general disrespect for co-workers, use of demeaning language, public embarrassment and harassment. extended period, commanders have had a woefully deficient HR function, particularly with respect to reporting practices and record keeping.”

The hearing comes a day after The Washington Post reported that a team employee accused Snyder of harassing and sexually assaulting her in April 2009, three months before the team agreed to pay the woman $1.6 million in a confidential settlement, according to legal correspondence obtained. by mail. Snyder called the woman’s claims “baseless” and said the team only agreed to a settlement at the direction of an insurance company.

“Mr. Snyder’s attorneys used their shadow investigation to create a 100-slide dossier of emails, text messages, phone records and social media posts from reporters, victims and witnesses who had worn credible public accusations of harassment against commanders,” Maloney wrote in the 29-page memo.

The filing compiled by Snyder’s representatives, according to the committee’s investigation, included Post reporters who detailed allegations of sexual harassment in the team’s workplace and attorneys Lisa Banks and Debra Katz, who represent more of 40 former team employees.

“Mr. Snyder’s legal team made several presentations to the NFL during Ms. Wilkinson’s investigation, including one that involved a 100-page PowerPoint slide detailing the private communications and social media activity of reporters and former Washington Post employees,” Maloney said.

This 100-slide dossier was produced from “information obtained through abusive litigation tactics and private investigators who targeted victims and witnesses to the toxic work environment of commanders,” the committee found. Snyder’s goal, Maloney wrote, “appears to have been to craft an exculpatory account to present to the NFL showing that he was not responsible for the COs toxic work environment, but rather was victim of a coordinated smear campaign”.

The NFL fined the team $10 million last July, based on the findings of Wilkinson’s investigation. The league also announced that Snyder would hand over control of the franchise’s day-to-day operations to his wife Tanya, the team’s co-CEO, indefinitely. She has represented the team at league meetings since then.

The committee’s investigation found that Snyder and his attorneys sent private investigators to the homes of former squad cheerleaders looking for derogatory information about Allen and combed through more than $400,000. emails to Allen’s dormant team account in an effort to convince the NFL that Allen was “responsible for the team’s toxic work culture.

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Snyder had fired Allen after a decade as team president in December 2019. Allen was not immediately available for comment.

Lawyers representing Snyder provided Wilkinson’s firm and the NFL with Allen’s emails, the committee found. A lawyer for Snyder “identified the specific inappropriate Bruce Allen emails attempting to demonstrate that Bruce Allen created a toxic environment among Washington commanders,” Maloney’s memo states.

Several of those emails later appeared in The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times, including some in which Las Vegas Raiders coach Jon Gruden used racist, homophobic and misogynistic language during seven years of corresponding with Allen while that Gruden worked for ESPN. Gruden resigned from the Raiders after the emails came to light.

Tanya Snyder told other NFL franchise owners at a league meeting in New York in October that neither she nor her husband were responsible for the leaked emails, several people at the meeting said. meeting at the time.

Gruden sued the NFL in November, accusing the league and Goodell of using leaked emails to “publicly sabotage Gruden’s career” and pressure him into resigning. The NFL said it did not release Gruden’s emails.

The league is now conducting a second investigation into Snyder which is overseen by attorney Mary Jo White. Goodell pledged to release those findings, after declining to release Wilkinson’s findings and stating that Wilkinson had only provided an oral report to the league.

Maloney’s summary of the congressional investigation noted that the NFL’s original contract with Wilkinson called for him to provide a written report and make recommendations, but that the league later “modified its plan.” Maloney’s memo accuses the team and the NFL of obstructing investigations by Wilkinson and the congressional panel.

The memo also cites instances in which Snyder took no action against coaches and senior staff, but punished female employees for engaging in consensual relationships with male staff. David Pauken, the team’s former chief operating officer, told the committee that when Snyder learned that a coach had groped a public relations employee, Snyder refused to take action against the coach and instead ordered the PR manager to “stay away from the coach.”

Pauken also testified that Snyder fired female employees who engaged in consensual relationships with male members of the team or his staff. He cited the firing of two cheerleaders for their relationship with former tight end Chris Cooley.

“The female employees were fired, the male employee was – there were no repercussions other than being banned from further sex with the cheerleaders,” Maloney’s summary states.

Another former team COO, Brian Lafemina, testified that when Snyder was made aware of sexual harassment complaints filed against former broadcaster Larry Michael, he dismissed the allegations saying Michael was a ” in love” who “wouldn’t hurt anyone”. Michael then resigned.

Former team executive Jason Friedman told the committee that the team’s culture “glorified booze and feminization.”

The committee previously detailed Friedman’s allegations of financial impropriety against the team in a letter to the Federal Trade Commission. The team denied these accusations.

At a congressional roundtable in February, Tiffani Johnston, a former cheerleader and team marketing manager, told committee members that Snyder harassed her at a team dinner, putting her hand on her thigh and pressing her towards her limo. Snyder called the accusations leveled directly against him “outright lies.”

Former Washington Commanders team employee Tiffani Johnston testified Feb. 3 that team owner Dan Snyder harassed her at a team dinner. (Video: The Washington Post)

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