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

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 attorneys and journalists in an attempt to discredit their accusers and blame them after allegations of widespread misconduct in the team. workplace, according to the findings of the investigation by the House Oversight and Reform Committee.

In addition, Snyder hired private investigators and attorneys to uncover inappropriate emails and evidence intended to convince the NFL and Beth Wilkinson, who was conducting a league-sponsored investigation into sexual harassment in the organization, that Snyder’s team president Bruce Allen was primarily responsible for any workplace problems.

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

“This memorandum describes the evidence uncovered by the Committee showing that, although publicly, the NFL and the Commanders promoted the hiring of a well-respected DC attorney [Wilkinson] to conduct an internal investigation of Commander’s toxic workplace, Commander’s owner, Daniel Snyder, privately launched a shadow investigation in an apparent effort to discredit his accusers in the eyes of the NFL and offer a alternative target for investigation,” Maloney wrote in his memo. “Bound by an agreement to pursue a common interest and a joint legal strategy, the NFL and Commanders finally laid to rest Ms. Wilkinson’s findings.”

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

Document reveals details of 2009 sexual assault allegation against Daniel Snyder

“It took considerable courage for many to relive their painful experiences and tell their individual stories,” Goodell’s comments read, in part. “No one should experience workplaces like the one you described, especially in the National Football League. I can tell each victim unequivocally that their willingness to speak out has contributed to a substantial improvement in the workplace.

“It is clear to me that the workplace in Washington was unprofessional and unacceptable on several counts: bullying, pervasive disrespect for colleagues, use of demeaning language, public shaming and harassment. Additionally, for an extended period of time, commanders had a woefully poor human resources function, particularly with respect to reporting and record-keeping practices.”

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

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

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

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

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

The NFL fined the team $10 million last July, according to the findings of Wilkinson’s investigation. The league also announced then that Snyder would turn over control of the franchise’s day-to-day operations to his wife Tanya, the team’s co-CEO, for an unspecified period. She has represented the team at league meetings ever since.

The committee’s investigation found that Snyder and his attorneys sent private investigators to the homes of former team cheerleaders looking for derogatory information about Allen and reviewed more than 400,000 emails on Allen’s dormant team account in an effort to convince Allen. 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.

Attorneys representing Snyder provided Wilkinson’s firm and the NFL with Allen’s emails, the committee found. An attorney for Snyder “identified the specific inappropriate emails from Bruce Allen in attempting to show that Bruce Allen had created a toxic environment at the Washington Commanders,” Maloney’s memo says.

Several of those emails later appeared in the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times, including some in which then-Las Vegas Raiders coach Jon Gruden used racist, homophobic and misogynistic language during seven years of correspondence with Allen while Gruden worked for ESPN. Gruden resigned from the Raiders after the emails were revealed.

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, multiple people present at that meeting said 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 to resign. The NFL has said it did not leak Gruden’s emails.

The league is now conducting a second investigation of Snyder that is being overseen by attorney Mary Jo White. Goodell has agreed to release those findings, after she refused to release Wilkinson’s findings, saying Wilkinson provided only an oral report to the league.

Maloney’s summary of the congressional investigation noted that the NFL’s initial contract with Wilkinson required her to submit a written report and make recommendations, but that the league later “changed its plan.” Maloney’s memo accuses the team and the NFL of obstructing investigations of both Wilkinson and the congressional panel.

The memo also cites instances in which Snyder took no action against senior coaches and 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 that the member of the public relations staff “stayed away from the coach.

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

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

Another former team COO, Brian Lafemina, testified that when Snyder was informed of the sexual harassment allegations made against former broadcaster Larry Michael, he dismissed the accusations saying Michael was a “loving guy” who “wouldn’t hurt anyone.” Michael later resigned.

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

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

At a congressional roundtable in February, Tiffani Johnston, a former cheerleader and marketing manager for the team, told committee members that Snyder accosted her at a team dinner, put his hand on her thigh and pushed her toward his limousine. Snyder called the accusations made directly against him “absolute 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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