- The Washington Times - Monday, April 18, 2022

The Washington Commanders fiercely denied allegations of financial improprieties Monday in a letter to the Federal Trade Commission, firing back at what the team calls “uncorroborated, false testimony” on the part of a former employee that the team says shouldn’t warrant an investigation. 

The team’s response, obtained by The Washington Times, comes after the House Oversight and Reform Committee sent its own letter to the federal agency detailing allegations from former Washington Redskins employee Jason Friedman, who told members of Congress that while he worked for the franchise, the team sought to withhold security-deposit refunds for season-ticket holders and hide ticket revenue that was supposed to be shared with the NFL. The committee asked the FTC to launch a formal review of the allegations.

In Monday’s letter, attorney Jordan Siev, who represents Washington owner Dan Snyder, wrote on behalf of the team that the committee’s letter “sets forth easily and fully rebuttable allegations.” 

Washington’s letter contains 83 pages of signed affidavits, emails and texts that seek to rebut Friedman’s allegations, painting him as a disgruntled employee who was fired from the team in October 2020 for “professional misconduct.” The team says Friedman, the former vice president of sales and customer service, tried to get his old job back as recently as January. 

Siev wrote that the Commanders did not get a chance to refute Friedman’s testimony to Congress.

“Had the Committee requested any information from the Team on the issues raised in the Committee’s letter, the Team could, and would, have provided testimony and documents making clear that the complained-of conduct did not occur,” Siev wrote. “Based upon all the information provided herein, no investigation is warranted.”

The letter offers line-by-line rebuttals of Friedman’s allegations. For example, Friedman told the committee that the team intentionally diverted more than $162,000 in Redskins ticket revenue to a 2014 Navy-Notre Dame game at FedEx Field, providing email correspondence that seemed to corroborate Friedman’s claim.

But the Commanders maintain that then-CFO Stephen Choi at the time forwarded Friedman’s email to the team’s accountants, who then marked the revenue properly. Siev wrote Friedman was dropped from the email chain because he was not an accountant. Screenshots of the emails are included in the Commanders’ letter.

Friedman also alleged that the Commanders used two sets of books that painted different financial pictures and were used to deceive the NFL.

But in Washington’s letter, former finance director Paul Szczenski wrote in an affidavit that he “can state unequivocally that I never helped maintain, or saw anyone else maintain a ‘second set of books.’” The letter says that auditing firms like BDO and Ernst & Young (the NFL’s auditor) had access to all of the team’s internal records.

Siev wrote that Friedman did not have “actual knowledge” of the team’s accounting practices because Friedman worked out of the ticket office in FedEx Field, while the finance team worked out of the team’s facility in Ashburn.

The Commanders also pushed back against Friedman’s assertion that the team made it difficult for season ticket holders to receive their security deposits once their contracts were up. The committee said that Friedman offered evidence that the team could be withholding as much as $5 million from more than 2,000 season ticket holders, but Szczenski said the deposits only converted to revenue when a customer defaulted on their contract. 

“Over the last ten years, the total amount of security deposits applied to revenue — all due to defaults — is just over 200,000, an immaterial amount in comparison to the Team’s overall income,” Siev wrote. “(Similarly, the Team did not hide any revenue from the NFL when recognizing revenue from defaulted deposits.)” 

The team also maintains that in 2014, it sent a letter to “every customer who had been inactive since 2010 whose security deposit was eligible for a refund” across 26 separate states and (and the District) and was able to refund 750 of those 1,500 dormant accounts. Mr. Friedman had said the team only sent a letter to a “single jurisdiction” in “one of the team’s three local jurisdictions.” 

Siev wrote to the agency that the committee “rushed to a baseless allegation of wrongdoing” when it came to the security deposit claims rather than contact the team. 

Siev wrote that Friedman is “a serial liar” who “has demonstrated himself to be wholly unreliable.” After Friedman was fired in October 2020, the team says Friedman contacted multiple team executives — including team president Jason Wright — in an attempt to be re-hired.

A spokesperson for the House Oversight and Reform Committee, responding to the Commanders, said the team “failed to fully address” the issues raised in the complaint to the FTC.

“If the team maintains that it has nothing to hide, it should welcome an independent review by the FTC, or the NFL, which is reportedly examining these issues as well,” the spokesperson said.

The team also said that Friedman sent an “effusive letter” to Snyder in which he referred to an article that detailed the team’s workplace misconduct as a “hit job.” Another text the team attributes to Friedman said that the sender would give “my left arm to be back on the team and I’m left handed.” 

The team also shared affidavits from former chief operating officer Mitch Gershman and former general counsel David Donovan that pushed back against Friedman.

Lisa Banks and Debra Katz, attorneys representing Friedman, said in a statement their client stands by his testimony, which “was truthful and based on his experiences with the team.” They added Friedman is happy to answer follow-up questions from Congress, the FTC or any other government agency.

“My client is also prepared to defend himself publicly against these allegations if Mr. Synder permits him to do so,” Banks and Katz said. “In the meantime, we will communicate directly with the team about these demonstratively false allegations.”

The NFL said last week that Friedman’s claims would be part of former SEC chair Mary Jo White’s investigation into the team.

White is looking into an allegation from former Washington employee Tiffani Johnston, who told members of Congress that Snyder inappropriately touched her thigh underneath a dinner table at a work event and later tried to coax her into his limo. Friedman had written to Congress that he witnessed the latter. 

The NFL declined comment Monday. 

• Matthew Paras can be reached at mparas@washingtontimes.com.

Copyright © 2023 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide