- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 9, 2022

D.C. Attorney General Karl A. Racine is set to make a “major announcement” Thursday related to the Washington Commanders, his office said Wednesday.

Mr. Racine, who will hold a press conference, began investigating owner Dan Snyder and the Commanders last fall regarding allegations of workplace misconduct, though his office didn’t confirm there was an active probe until this past April. An official for Mr. Racine said then his office had obtained more than half a million pages of documents from the Commanders and the NFL.

Thursday’s press conference comes after a report last month that Mr. Racine was planning to take action against the team as his investigation neared its final stage. An unnamed source told The Washington Post that “Dan Snyder, the Commanders and the NFL will soon face accountability for their actions.” The source said Snyder would “no longer be able to dodge subpoenas or avoid testifying or answering questions.”

Since then, the Commanders announced that Dan and Tanya Snyder have hired an investment bank to explore “potential transactions” that include a possible sale of the team.

The Racine announcement drew a blunt reaction from the Commanders’ front office.

“Less than three months ago, a 23-year-old player on our team was shot multiple times, in broad daylight,” a team spokesperson said in a statement, referring to the shooting of running back Brian Robinson Jr.  “Despite the out-of-control violent crime in DC, today the Washington Commanders learned for the first time on Twitter that the D.C. Attorney General will be holding a press conference to ‘make a major announcement’ related to the organization tomorrow.

“The Commanders have fully cooperated with the AG’s investigation for nearly a year. As recently as Monday, a lawyer for the team met with the AG who did not suggest at that time that he intended to take any action and, in fact, revealed fundamental misunderstandings of the underlying facts. It is unfortunate that, in his final days in office, Mr. Racine appears more interested in making splashy headlines, based on offbeat legal theories, rather than doing the hard work of making the streets safe for our citizens, including bringing to justice the people who shot one of our players.”

Mr. Racine, who did not run for re-election, said in April that the details around the Commanders’ controversies were “deeply troubling.”

His office issued a statement on his behalf after the House Oversight and Reform Committee sent a letter to the Federal Trade Commission and attorneys general in Virginia, Maryland and the District regarding allegations that the Commanders had committed financial improprieties.

In addition to Mr. Racine’s office, Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares has also confirmed that he’s looking into the allegations. Mr. Miyares’ probe was launched in April.

The probes are part of at least five investigations into Mr. Snyder. The NFL, Congress and the U.S. attorney’s office in Eastern District Virginia are conducting the other known ongoing probes — the latter of which is a criminal investigation centered around the allegations of financial improprieties.

In March, former Washington sales executive Jason Friedman testified to members of Congress that the Commanders had committed multiple acts of financial misconduct — including a scheme that sought to intentionally withhold refundable security deposits from season-ticket holders. Mr. Friedman also testified that the team had two different sets of financial books and withheld ticketing revenue that was supposed to be shared with the rest of the NFL.

Mr. Friedman’s allegations drew fierce pushback from the team — which, in a letter to the FTC, painted the executive as a disgruntled former employee who was retaliating after team president Jason Wright rebuffed his efforts to try and reclaim his old job. A law firm representing the team also sent testimony, emails and other documents that it said were evidence that discredited Mr. Friedman’s accusations.

The team’s letter was sent in response to the Oversight committee alerting the FTC that the Commanders “may have engaged in a troubling, long-running, and potentially unlawful pattern of financial conduct that victimized thousands of team fans and the National Football League.”

Jason Downs, a former chief deputy attorney general for the District, said in an interview Wednesday that Mr. Racine has the jurisdiction to investigate the Commanders even though the football team is based out of Maryland and Virginia because the team’s misconduct could have affected consumers in the District.

Specifically, under the District’s Consumer Protection Procedures Act (CPPA), Mr. Racine’s office has the jurisdiction to investigate any company that makes misleading, false and deceptive comments to District consumers, Mr. Downs said.

As long as those components apply to the Commanders, “this is the kind of case that falls within the jurisdiction of the D.C. attorney general,” Mr. Downs said, “regardless as to where the company is based.”

If action is taken, Mr. Downs said Mr. Racine’s office would likely pursue a civil case because the attorney general’s criminal authority is “relatively limited.” From there, Mr. Downs added, there are likely a few measures Mr. Racine could look to take.

Mr. Downs said theoretically the office could be seeking civil penalties or restitution for District consumers. The office also has the ability to seek “conduct change” — such as an injunction or, say, the implementation of a yearly audit that would be reported to the city so the type of misconduct isn’t occurring anymore, he said.

“The range is broad,” Mr. Downs said.

During Mr. Racine’s two-term tenure, he’s used the CPPA as a basis to sue companies like OppFI and DoorDash. The latter recovered $1.5 million in restitution for delivery workers. But Mr. Racine’s efforts in court aren’t always successful: In an anti-trust case, Mr. Racine sued Amazon in September 2021 — only for the lawsuit to be tossed out in March.

“[Thursday] at 1pm, we’ll be holding a press conference to make a major announcement about the Washington Commanders,” Mr. Racine tweeted. “Stay tuned.”

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

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