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Washington Commanders send letter to FTC denying financial impropriety

WASHINGTON — The NFL’s Washington Commanders denied several allegations of financial impropriety in a letter sent Monday to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission.

The 105-page letter including testimony, emails and other documents came as a response to the U.S. House Oversight and Reform Committee asking the FTC to look into the team’s business practices.

The committee last week told the FTC it found evidence of deceptive business practices over the span of more than a decade, including withholding ticket revenue from visiting teams and refundable deposits from fans. The NFL said it engaged Securities and Exchange Commission chair Mary Jo White “to review the most serious matters raised by the committee.”

The letter signed by Jordan W. Siev from the law firm Reed Smith denies all of those allegations and takes aim at the motives and character of former VP of sales and customer service Jason Friedman, whose testimony against the team framed the committee’s recommendation. Siev argues no financial investigation is warranted, saying the committee never requested information about the allegations made, which the Commanders believe would clear them of any wrongdoing.

“The committee did not request a single document from the team; the committee did not invite a single representative of the team to address the truth of the matters contained in the committee’s letter; and the committee did not pose questions to the team to answer in writing about its allegations, or provide any mechanism whatsoever for the team to address the truth of the allegations,” the letter said. “Had the committee posed any of these questions or requests to the team, the team could — and would — easily and fully have rebutted each allegation.”

Congress began looking into the team’s workplace misconduct after the league did not release a report detailing the findings of an independent investigation into the matter, which led to a $10 million fine but no other discipline. The committee said the NFL and the team “have taken steps to withhold key documents and information.”

In a statement sent to The Associated Press on April 4, a Commanders spokeswoman said there was “absolutely no withholding of ticket revenue at any time” and pointed to audits by multiple parties, adding that “anyone who offered testimony suggesting a withholding of revenue has committed perjury, plain and simple.”

Lawyer Lisa Banks, who represents Friedman, said the team defamed her client, who she said “testified truthfully, with evidence.”

Friedman testified before Congress saying the team had two separate financial books: one with underreported ticket revenue that went to the NFL and the full, complete picture. According to testimony, owner Dan Snyder was aware of the numbers shared with the league while also being privy to the actual data.

In the team’s letter to the FTC, former director of finance Paul Szczenski is quoted as saying, “I can state unequivocally that I never helped maintain, or saw anyone else maintain, a ‘second set’ of books. The team also cites declarations from former chief operating officer Mitch Gershman and former general counsel David Donovan along with emails and other documents to refute allegations cited by the Oversight Committee.

Stephen Whyno is an AP Sports Writer.


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