Virginia Attorney General’s office to launch investigation into Commanders

Virginia Attorney General’s office to launch investigation into Commanders

The Virginia State Attorney General’s office is launching an investigation into the Washington Commanders after a former employee accused the team of committing financial improprieties, according to a letter state Attorney General Jason Miyares sent to the team Monday.

Miyares, a first-term Republican, informed the Commanders that he has appointed Steven G. Popps, the deputy attorney general for civil division, to lead a probe of the team after his office received a letter from the Democrat-led House Oversight and Reform Committee earlier this month. 

The committee’s letter, sent to Miyares and to the Federal Trade Commission, among others, details allegations from Jason Friedman — a former employee who testified the team intentionally withheld security deposit refunds from fans, among other accusations of financial misconduct. The Commanders denied the claims, fiercely pushing back in their own letter to the FTC. 

Miyares’ letter was addressed to attorney Jordan Siev, who represents owner Dan Snyder and the Commanders. 

“The Office of the Attorney General of Virginia is conducting an official inquiry into this matter,” Miyares wrote. “To be clear, I have not prejudged the issues raised regarding the Commanders. However, I view it as my responsibility to carefully examine the material facts regarding this matter after it was brought to my attention.

“I request full cooperation and transparency from your client during this inquiry.”

Miyares, who was elected last November and took office this past January, is serving his first term as Virginia’s attorney general. Before becoming the state’s first Latino to serve in the role, Miyares was a lawmaker in Virginia’s House of Delegates.

Last week, Rep. James Comer, a Kentucky Republican and ranking member on the House Oversight Committee, accused chairwoman and Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney of running a “one-sided investigation” into the Commanders in a letter to the New York Democrat. Maloney shot back in a statement, writing she won’t stop the committee’s probe. 

A Commanders spokesperson asked for comment Monday referred back to an earlier statement that maintained the team had committed no financial improprieties.

“The team categorically denies any suggestion of financial impropriety of any kind at any time,” the team said in a statement. “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.”

Miyares instructed Siev in his letter to reach out to Popps for any questions and further communication. 

“I appreciate your attention to this matter,” Miyares wrote. 

ESPN first reported the existence of Miyares’ letter. The network added that Popps’ probe will include the Consumer Protection section with the Civil Division and could expand to the Criminal Division if warranted. 

Earlier this month, Siev in a letter to the FTC said that no investigation into the team was warranted. In a 105-page communication that included exhibits and affidavits, Siev, on behalf of the team, offered line-by-line pushback against Friedman’s allegations — offering emails that he says were evidence that Friedman was wrong. The lawyer painted Friedman as a “serial liar” in the letter and accused him of being a disgruntled former employee who was fired from the team in October 2020. 

Friedman’s lawyers said then in a statement that their client was telling the truth. 

The NFL is also looking into Friedman’s claims. The league said in a statement earlier this month that the allegations would be included in investigator Mary Jo White’s scope. White, the former chair of the Securities and Exchange Commission, is also investigating an allegation from a former Washington employee who said owner Dan Snyder made an unwanted advance during a work dinner in 2005 or 2006. 

Former employee Tiffani Johnston told the House committee in February that Snyder touched her leg underneath a dinner table inappropriately and later tried to coax her into his limo. Snyder denied the allegations.